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Proper Recovery from Ironman St. George

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Ironman St. George has a notorious reputation of being the most challenging—it’s WTC’s only Ironman distance in America that doesn’t sell out. Athletes tell stories of walking their bikes up the grueling hills and suffering through a tough marathon course.

With the race just a few days away, at the forefront of athletes’ minds is how best to make it through the day. But participants should also be considering how to properly recover from the stress of this race.

Inside Triathlon Senior Editor Jennifer Purdie chatted with Sage Rountree, author of the book “The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery.” Rountree offers her expert advice for athletes racing in St. George, but her tips can be applied to any endurance event. The hills are a major component of this course. So the quads are going to be suffering. What are some post-race remedies athletes can do within 24 hours of the race to speed up recovery?

Rountree: Be sure to rehydrate and refuel when you finish, through the evening and into the next day, and if you have the energy left, take an ice bath after the race. This can even go the next day. Sore quads are good, as they show you how hard you’ve worked and keep you from being too active in the first few days after the race. Remember that even when the soreness lifts, there’s a lot of healing still left to be done on the cellular level before you are fully recovered. Plan to take it easy for a few weeks to a month. In your book “The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery,” you discuss the effectiveness of compression socks. You state the literature on using them during exercise is inconclusive. Would you recommend them for after a race and if so, do you have an opinion on how long?

Rountree: Sure, and even before the race if there’s a lot of travel involved. I wear mine on the plane to and from the race, and afterward for a few hours. They could even stay on overnight, if it’s not uncomfortable. What about massage? What type would be best for an athlete after completing an Ironman?

Rountree: Very gentle and light, especially if you’re still sore. You don’t want to aggravate inflamed tissue by applying too much pressure. It’s tough to find, but a modality like Watsu—supported, gentle stretching while floating in a warm pool would be lovely for recovery after an Ironman. Is there anything an athlete can do during the Ironman itself that will help speed recovery?

Rountree: I haven’t found a magic cream yet, but managing nutrition and hydration DURING the race will directly affect your recovery process. If you let yourself get too depleted during the race, you’ll have that much more of a deficit to overcome in the next few days. After a race that lasts all day, many athletes have very sensitive stomachs by the time they get to finish line. In your opinion, what is the best post-race nutrition that an athlete should be able to handle and how long after should it be taken?

Rountree: It depends on the athlete. It makes sense to start with liquids—a smoothie or sports drink if your stomach is upset. Salty foods are good, as they help your body hold on to the fluids you’re trying to replenish. After a long day of eating sugars, I find I want contrast. After IM Coeur d’Alene in 2009, I happily ate a bunch of Tostitos. The crunch and salt were really appealing!

For more information on Sage Rountree, click here.

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