The Perfect Fuel

I completed my first Triathlon  in 2009. I didn’t have a coach, I didn’t understand training at all, and more importantly I didn’t understand the importance of recovery. Now, several years later and after having some experience, as well as success in triathlon, I am just beginning to scrape the surface. I now have been following a rigorous training schedule’s for 8 years. In that time, I have had my ups and downs, successes and failures and I have learned a lot, and still learning.

One of my biggest mistakes I made was not listening to my body. I would look at the training schedule that I set and was supposed to follow but instead, I would always do the training I programmed and then I would do more, make it further or at a faster pace. I thought I was helping myself, but my body was not always ready for it. When I should have had a day off or not done a race, I did it anyway. I found out the hard-way something that I didn’t fully understand, my body wasn’t getting the recovery it needed.

Whether you are young or old, it is important to listen to your body. If it is tired, sometimes the best solution is to take a day off. If you are sick, it doesn’t make you a weaker person to step back and rest for a day. In fact, rest and recovery are just as important or potentially even more important than the training itself. If you are constantly training on tired or sore muscles, you will not perform well in training, you will not be able to push your body during your workouts, and you open yourself up to injuries.

I have put together a few pieces of advice to follow for the newbie and experienced triathlete alike:

Take things Slow.

It is important to build a foundation. A person that is relatively new to triathlon should not be on a program that calls for 15-20 hours of working out each week. Very few people jump into this sport and do extremely well. Mastering the skills involved to be successful takes time. Not weeks or months, but years of training. Coaches and Athletes I personally know, who has competed for 15 to 20 years now tells me that they are still learning new things every race they participates in,  some being top ranked amateur triathletes in the world.

Most people, myself included, are too busy wanting to produce results, that they forget that it takes time. My biggest mistake that I have made in triathlon is trying to push myself too hard too fast. I wanted to win so much, that I often times put my health on the line. I would train when I was sick, race when I was hurt and I wouldn’t take time to recover. This is something that took me a long time to realize, but when I did, I decided that I needed to change my outlook and my approach. Big surprise, when I changed my approach, the results started to show, and the enjoyment level increased. This brings me to my next point:

Listen to your body and treat it well.

When I started listening to my body, I started to perform at a much higher level. When I was sick or needed to take a day off I did. Instead of taking the full day off however, I did something productive for my body. Some of these things included ice baths, slipping on some compression clothing, stretching, massage and using my roller. Making sure I was fueling my body with the best foods to recover. What this did was it allowed me to recover so I could train harder and also come into races with a much higher fitness level. I was able to push my body harder because I gave it the rest and recovery it needed to perform at the highest level.

Eat well and use recovery tools.

These are probably two of the most important factors for me in my recovery. It is imperative that you refuel your muscles after working out. Some may argue on the specifics, but there is a 30 to 60 minute window or so after a workout that is the prime time to restore nutrients to your muscles. My drink of choice after workouts is Milk and Bananas as they have pretty much everything that you need in a recovery drink (ie. protein, carbs, etc.).

rollerAnother huge benefit for my recovery has been my use of my Roller (a great investment). Go looking for those sore spots, and nip then in the bud on a regular basis. It is amazing how you can operate in training or general activities, without actually feeling how sore you actually are, that is until you use your Roller and find out you have some extremly  painful areas.

The use of Compression garments both in training , after working out and during sleep can also greatly assist  to reduce muscle fatigue, improve circulation and help you recover faster. Some people swear by them and other don’t. They are worth a try for a time, to see if the suit you personally. I myself use them from time to time, during Travel and Sleeping when very fatigue. Lying on your back with legs vertical against a wall also greatly assist in blood circulation in the legs and lactic absorption at a faster rate.

Beyond post working out, it is also important that you are taking in enough of the right calories daily to replace what you lost during your workouts. That doesn’t mean that you go eat your weight in pizza, but rather that you eat a balanced diet of foods that will not only replenish calories that you have lost but that will also fuel you for future workouts.

Don’t get sucked by others.

If you are following a program, then follow it. Don’t get court up by others. Most often you are not aware of their stage in training, capability, or their race plans. It may be Sociable or Sexy to keep up. Remind yourself-Coffee always awaits, and your mates will turn up when they have done their thing. Do yours, wait and relax, follow your program.

The Importance of recovery is something that is often overlooked by many Triathletes. 

If you use some of the advice I gave you and put it in to practice, I can guarantee that you will not only perform better, but you will feel better. Remember, although you may be trying to win a race, beat a personal record, or just trying to finish the race, that there is a reason that you are competing in the first place. “I may be wrong, but it is probably because you love the sport and just the pure satisfaction and enjoyment you get from it.”

So sit back and think about why you are doing triathlons in the first place. We all do triathlons for different reasons and we all have different goals. Whether you are training to win or just trying to finish your first triathlon, don’t forget to give your body the rest and recovery that it needs.