Workout Placement Can Improve Recovery

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Triathletes use a variety of strategies when planning their daily workout routines. Timing your workout with organized swim, bike and run sessions, efficiently using your time and working out when you feel your best are all important factors. However, one consideration often overlooked is workout placement.

More: 3 Post-Race Recovery Rips for Triathletes

Many triathletes work out in the same sequence as a triathlon event: swimming, cycling then running. Others focus on where to place the most difficult workout. To get the most from this key session, the decision about workout placement should not be done independently of other workouts. Athletes must remain cognizant of their overall goals and how workouts fit together within a multi-week period.

If the quality of your recovery is improved, the results of your next key session will improve as well. There are many ways to improve workout recovery, but one that many triathletes don't think about is placing a swim after a hard run.

A recent study had nine well-trained triathletes complete two high-intensity interval-running sessions followed 10 hours later by either a swimming recovery session or a passive recovery of doing no exercise. The final test was a "time-to-fatigue" run completed 24 hours after the last interval session.

The results showed the swim-recovery group posting a significantly longer run time on the time-to-fatigue test. The swim-recovery group ran for 830 seconds (+/- 198 seconds) compared to the passive-recovery group at 728 seconds (+/- 183 seconds). That is a 14 percent improvement.

More: Recovery's Role in Triathlon Training

Additionally, there was a significant difference in venous blood levels of circulating C-Reactive Protein, a marker of inflammation between the swim recovery group and the passive-recovery group. The swim-recovery group posted a 23-percent decrease of CRP levels 24 hours after the interval session, while the passive-recovery group's CRP levels only decreased by 5 percent.

While the study concluded that the hydrostatic properties (fluid pressures) of water were a key influence, it could have been a combination of factors, including the cool temperature of the water, the water pressure on the legs (helping to move waste products away from the legs) and doing some kind of exercise, rather than no exercise, that helped the swim group.

When organizing your training plan, be sure to pay attention to enhancing your workout recovery so the next key session can deliver the results you want.

More: Determining Your Race Recovery Time


Lum, E., Landers G., Peeling P., "Effects of a Recovery Swim on Subsequent Running Performance ", The University of Western Australia, School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, Crawley, Australia; Western Australian Institute of Sport, Mt. Claremont, Australia

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