Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Why The Finish Line Isn't The End

A well constructed recovery plan
will help you get back to training
safely, effectively, and efficiently.
"The finish line is just the beginning of a whole new race."  ~Anonymous

Most training plans are filled will intricate details of distances and pace targets that culminate with an event.  Yet what you do in the seventy-two hours following an event of marathon distance or greater plays a large role in how safely, effectively, and efficiently you are able to return to training.  Endurance athletes tend to have busy race schedules.  It's not unusual for some to have multiple events of marathon distance or greater planned in the same calendar year.  This ambitious race schedule not only places a tremendous emphasis on preparation but also recovery.  Here are the essential elements of a post-event recovery protocol;

Immediate Post-Race
They've hung the medal around your neck, you've visited with family and friends, and now you finally have a chance to sit down.  Take a deep breath.  While the race may be over, the event still has one last critical element to execute...the recovery.  

Once a race has finished the top three immediate recovery priorities are hydration, glycogen replenishment, and tending to minor medical needs.  The most effective way to re-hydrate is with an cold isotonic solution.  The amount is generally commensurate with the length of time and type of environment to which you were exposed.  A good place to start is with 20-24 ounces of this type of fluid.  Be cautious not to over-consume before you've tended to the second priority; glycogen replenishment.  The most effective way to replenishment glycogen following a glycogen-depleting activity is to consume a beverage containing a ratio of carbohydrates and proteins tailored to your individual needs within an hour of the event.  Finally, before you leave the venue make sure to tend to minor medical needs.  Commonly these involve the skin which is not only the largest, but also the most vulnerable, organ of the body and subject to integrity issues (ie. blisters, chaffing, etc).  

Post-Race Evening
Now that you're home and showered there are five things to do before your head hits the pillow for some well earned rest.  

1.)  Respect Food Cravings
Your body has a unique ability to signal which nutrients it needs through food cravings.  This is particularly true following an exhaustive event.  Listen to these cravings and follow their lead.  

2.)  Hydrate
Although it will likely result in you getting up multiple times during the night, continue your hydration plan.  Your objective is to return your urine to a pale yellow color.  It's worth noting, clear urine may be an indication that you have over consumed and potentially have placed yourself in jeopardy of electrolyte disturbances.  Pale yellow is best. 

3.)  Eat A High Performance Meal
Item #1 notwithstanding, the majority of calories consumed should be from healthy proteins and fats.  These nutrients accelerate skeletal muscle repair and assist in the regeneration of key hormones.  As much as possible attempt to limit simple sugars (ie. high fructose corn syrup) as they may contribute to inflammation during a time in which you are attempting to reduce activity-associated inflammation.  

4.)  Boost HGH To Aid Recovery
Consuming a serving of whey protein (mixed with water) within thirty minutes of bed time may enhance human growth hormone (HGH) levels.  HGH may aid in skeletal muscle repair of which you are going to need to do.  

5.)  Get To Bed Early
Although not always practical, it is good practice to get bed an hour earlier than usual.  Physiologic recovery occurs during rest.  Multiple factors may disrupt your sleep pattern following an exhaustive bout of physical activity so it's important to realize that even though you may have a hard time falling and staying asleep, as long as you are laying down you are resting and recovering.

The Next 72 Hours
Despite how you feel when you go down stairs, you are now well on your way to safe, effective, and efficient recovery.  But it's far from over.  The next three days are incredibly important.  Here are the items to focus on;

Physical Practices
1.)  No running for one (1) day for every ten (10) miles raced.  
2.)  Perform a 10-20 minute "active recovery" walk each day.
3.)  Follow that walk with some gentle mobility exercises.
4.)  Continue to get to bed an hour early each night.  

Nutritional Practices
1.)  Increase healthy protein intake in order to provide your body with the building blocks it needs to continue with skeletal muscle restoration.
2.)  Consume healthy fats to continue assist in the regeneration of key hormones.
3.)  Continue to hydrate to a pale yellow urine.  
4.)  Continue to consume a serving of whey protein (mixed with water) thirty minutes before bed.

After the 72 hour post-event period you should be feeling well on your way to completely recovered.  While you follow the "10 Mile Rule", consider adding some non-impact "active recovery" cross-training modalities to slowly increase your activity level and to mitigate significant alterations in form (ie. becoming stale).   

A professional endurance coach can not only provide specific details with respect to the recovery protocols listed above but can also provide guidance with regard to resumption of sport-specific training.  

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