No advantage in a post-race icebath.

Yesterday I reposted an article, De-Iced: the End of the Cold War, which outlined how the world’s leaders in health, performance and rehab are now abandoning ice as a recovery tool based on a complete lack of evidence that it speeds up or helps in the recovery process. Along with generating some healthy debate, I’ve had a couple of emails along the theme of:

Well, if you don’t advocate stretching for triathlon, and you don’t believe in ice or R.I.C.E then what do you do with your athletes post race?”

Which I think is a fair enough question. In response here are my thoughts on Post Race Recovery:

The first point I’d make is that a recovery plan depends largely on whether you’ve competed in an early morning or an afternoon race. The reason this is important is because I prefer my athletes to exercise and actively loosen up again after they’ve finished competing.

If they’ve had an early race start my advice is to go on a 60-90 minute bike ride some time in the afternoon. Obviously no big effort, just to spin the legs over.

An afternoon race can complicate this as they may not have the time to complete the ride in daylight hours. In that case we try and make sure that the hotel we’re staying at has a treadmill or sauna. Post race recovery is then an easy 30 minute run followed by a 30 minute sauna – with light stretching if they must.

But this is where it can get tricky:

If the race we’ve just completed falls in the middle of training for another race, then we look to do a run straight after finishing with the distance of the run varying according to the distance of the next race. So if the next race was Olympic distance post-race we’d run 5km, or 10km if we’re going half Ironman. If our next race is an Ironman we’d do 15km and then in the afternoon we’d ride.

It’s the time just after finishing a race that is so essential to helping recovery. That’s why I advise my guys to stay in the town an extra day if they can to train and then return back to camp on the Tuesday.

Now of course if you are an age-group athlete who works full-time then this is very difficult.

However I would still strongly suggest doing some form of exercise on race day itself, and then making every effort to fit in some light training the day after. Not doing anything straight after the race and then taking Monday off slows recovery enormously. It also creates the opportunity for injury as once you get back into training the muscles have completely stiffened and tightened up.

So in short, rather than ice or R.I.C.E I recommend keeping the blood flowing as soon as possible in the hours and days after the race, then later in the week take a day or two off.

Below is a rough Sutto guide to what we do and it seems to work pretty effectively.

Sunday:

Ride again in the afternoon 60-90 minutes.

Monday:
AM: Short, easy run 30 minutes
Midday: Swim 1hr easy
PM: Ride 1hr easy (pack bike)

Tuesday:
AM: Short run 20 minutes
Midday: Travel home
PM: Normal swim set if you can.

Wednesday:

Complete rest.

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