IRONMAN Recovery – your FAQs answered by biokineticist & experienced triathlete Tony Paladin

Kaisa Lehtonen, Pro Women's division winner, crossing the finish line. Photo: Chamain van Zyl/ ASG Sports
Kaisa Lehtonen, Pro Women’s division winner, crossing the finish line. Photo: Chamain van Zyl/ ASG Sports

 

The big day you’ve been training for is over and, depending on where you are in your fitness, you’re perhaps feeling a bit tender, and wondering what the best way is to deal with this, or how long post-race recovery for such a big event should last.

We chatted to Dr Tony Paladin, a registered biokineticist and member of the Biokinetics Association of South Africa (BASA) whose primary areas of focus include orthopaedic rehabilitation and sport-specific testing to find out. He also has extensive road running, trail running, cycling, triathlon and weightlifting experience, and formed part of the 2011 rowing squad that qualified South Africa’s Gold medal team for the 2012 Olympic Games. Needless to say, he knows what he’s talking about.

He answers a few of our burning questions about post-IRONMAN recovery and whether or not it’s essential to get into that ice bath…

 

  1. What’s the best way to recover?

Rather than deal with every fad, fashion and obsession among people who think that swimming 3,8km in freezing water, cycling 180km in sideways rain and running a marathon while burping up sea water is fun, I would like to put forward the concept of optimisation. In order for something to be optimal and/or ideal, it requires a careful mix of the right ingredients. Too much or too little of anything to an athlete can be as lethal as your first attempt at Vindaloo curry…

It’s important to remember that the body’s ability to heal itself is dependent on the rate that tissue is able to heal and remodel back into its original state. With this in mind, it’s impossible to ‘speed up’ healing past the body’s peak rate of repair. Rather, it’s better to optimise the process so that the body is able to heal at the fastest possible rate. With this is mind; we would therefore need to create an environment in which the body has every available resource to heal itself in the most optimal state.

 

Some sound strategies that we can use are:

•             Optimal hydration (water plus electrolytes)

•             Optimal nutrition (good food choice plus any necessary supplements including a healthy balance of                          protein, fats and carbohydrates)

•             Sufficient rest (8 to 9 hours of sleep per night)

•             Increased blood flow (active recovery sessions, sports massage)

•             Increased oxygenation (breathing exercises, meditation, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, etc.)

•             Practice relaxation techniques (meditation, time with friends)

•             Reduce inflammation (ice baths, compression)

•             Remove obstacles that impede recovery (alcohol, smoking, stressful environments, keeping away from sick                people)

 

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Getting enough sleep is key to post-IRONMAN recovery.

 

  1. How long does post-race recovery last?

Post-race recovery basically needs to last as long as necessary to reduce the potential onset of injury. In other words, after a big event, the body is broken down and needs some time to reach its usual training set point. Under-recovery may result in the onset of an injury or illness and over-recovery will start to result in loss of conditioning.

A large determinant of recovery time is the actual event itself. Most athletes should have, at most, two major peaks each year. Additional events over and above these one or two big events should be considered training. Athletes who feel the urge to be permanently peaking are generally not training enough.

After a big event such as IRONMAN, usually one or two days of total rest should suffice followed by a return to light activity to kick-start the regeneration process. Usually (depending on the event), return to normal training can start within 5 to 7 days of a large event.

Following smaller events such as weekend half-triathlons, light activity can ensue the following day, with return to full training within two to three days.

 

Karyn_Marshall_Ice_Bath

 

  1. Do I really need to get into that ice bath?

Ice baths are great but, just like you need both a hammer and a nail to hang a picture, it should not be used in isolation as a sole method of recovery. Whilst sitting in an ice bath with a beer is probably better than not sitting in the ice bath with a beer, it’s better to evaluate the situation holistically and try and recover in totality, using all methods available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What do I do the night the event is over?

Following a big event, we need to evaluate the potential outcomes of our actions. The question of recovery also boils down to the level of athlete we are dealing with. With professionals or aspiring athletes who need to be back at training soon after the event, it’s a good idea for them to treat the post event evening the same as any other evening; with moderation and sense.

For more recreational athletes, there is a little more flexibility in terms of the post-event social element but it is very important to note that when the body is broken down, it is vulnerable to sickness and injury. Add alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or lack of sleep to your body when it is in this state, and the chance of sickness and injury goes up exponentially.

 

Have fun and enjoy the rush of having accomplished something big, but do so responsibly. Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or lack of sleep will hinder recovery and make you prone to sickness and injury.
Have fun and enjoy the rush of having accomplished something big, but do so responsibly. Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and lack of sleep will hinder your post-race recovery and make you prone to sickness and injury.

 

  1. What can I do better next time?

My standard answer to this question lies within the saying: “I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m thinking of making a few more”. When it comes to being an athlete, true value lies in experimentation and finding what works for you. Obviously it makes more sense to experiment during training than during racing, but if you make a mistake on event day, then it is what it is; learn from it and improve on it for next time.

 

Best Recovery Products…

Zero in Pink Grapefruit flavour: Great for everyday use, HIGH5 Zero is packed with Vitamin C, which makes it ideal for use during the post-race recovery period as it’ll help support the immune system. And with a major dose of electrolytes, it’s the perfect way to stay hydrated. It’s also quite light-tasting, and with zero carbs, sugar and calories, you can drink it all day. We recommend the Pink Grapefruit Zero tabs for casual use, they’re delicious!

 

Protein Recovery in Banana Vanilla flavour:  Protein Recovery uses pure whey protein isolate (which contains BCAA) – a high quality source of protein. But it also contains carbohydrate to ensure you get the perfect ratio for optimal recovery. Consuming carbohydrates contributes to recovery of normal muscle function after strenuous exercise. It’s a deliciously light shake that can be mixed with water or milk, and like all of HIGH5’s products, doesn’t contain any gluten, artificial colours, preservatives or sweeteners. It also does not use lactose as an ingredient, and is suitable for vegetarians.

Recovery bests (Large)

 

Biokinetics Tony Paladin copy

About Tony Paladin

Tony Paladin is a registered biokineticist and member of the Biokinetics Association of South Africa (BASA) whose primary areas of focus include orthopaedic rehabilitation and sport-specific testing. He is also a certified CrossFit level 1 coach.

He represented South Africa from 1998 to 2012 in rowing and formed part of the 2011 squad that qualified South Africa’s gold medal team for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Tony also has an extensive road running, trail running, cycling, triathlon and weightlifting background. He is a proud husband, father and animal lover.

You can contact him at www.paladinbiokinetics.co.za, or via tonypaladin@kinetics.co.za or on 082 921 6776. Or you can follow him on Twitter @Paladin_Bios and Facebook ‘Paladin Biokineticists’.