Recovery. It's an important part of any triathlete's training. (Especially for those competing in the half-Ironman and Ironman distances.)
So who better to ask for recovery tips than an Ironman age-grouper who happens to also be a physical therapist?
We recently spoke to triathlon age-grouper Sandy Cranny to find out her recovery strategies and what she suggests other triathletes do to stay healthy and keep their training on track.
Tip No.1: Listen to Your Body
Cranny has seen it many times. A triathlete puts in a long ride or competes in a race and afterwards they feel a slight pull or strain. But they ignore it, figuring it will just get better.
And then she would end up seeing them Monday morning at the physical therapy clinic.
"Usually there are warning signs before something becomes a full-fledged injury," said Cranny. "I usually recommend ice, ice, and more ice. This will reduce inflammation and calm things down."
One of the key areas that experienced triathletes need to understand is the difference between soreness and pain. That's why she believes a regular routine of using ice can prevent many of those physical issues.
"It can sometimes be hard to know if you're just sore or if you're hurt. That's why ice is so good."
"Believe me, it's a lot easier to treat in the beginning."
Tip No.2: Prepare, But Don't Plan Your Post-Race Recovery
One would expect Cranny subscribes to a rigid, structured program of recovery after a race. But she believes the valuable recovery time in the days after a race needs to stay flexible, according to what her body needs.
"I don't have a set schedule for how long my recovery is. I listen to what my body tells me," said Cranny. "But after a long event, such as an Ironman, I'll usually take at least three days off. And then get back going with a swim."
After that initial recovery period, Cranny says she errs on the side of caution when it comes to ramping up her traning. "I can go as long as 14 days before I run again after an Ironman. I know a lot of triathletes don't do that. There's a lot of Type-A's in triathlon!," said Cranny. "But I find I can avoid a lot of the big injuries that way. And that keeps me in a lot of races."
More: Determining Race Recovery Time
Tip No.3: On the Road
Cranny doesn't worry too much about her American Express card. But there are two things she doesn't leave home without. Her recovery socks and her "Stick."
"I use compression socks. A lot. More than some do," said Cranny. "For post-race and traveling, they really help."
And the legs?
"I do use foam rollers. But really I rely mostly on The Stick (Travel Body Muscle Massager)," said Cranny. "I just like to use it to work on my calves and hamstrings and break up the lactic acid."
"My bags don't get packed without making sure that's in there."
More: Ice Bath Dos and Don'ts
Tip No.4: Strength Training
Strength training? And recovery? Seems like a strange combination. But as a physical therapist, Cranny has seen the value of keeping muscles lean and strong and how it plays a role in recovery.
"The body can take more pounding when it's strong. I know it's not technically recovery, but I really see it as an important part of the process," said Cranny. "And something many triathletes overlook."
Strength training can not only give you explosive power during a race, but also reduce the amount of time needed for recovery. And help your overall confidence.
"When I feel strong, I feel good," said Cranny. "And that makes me better. No question"
More: 20-Minute Strength Training Workout
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