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Triathlete looking at post-race recovery data

Post-Race Recovery – The First 168 Hours After Triathlon

We asked IRONMAN Champion Sebastian Kienle and his coach Lubos Bilek to share their pro insight on post-race recovery and what happens during the first 168 hours after the finish line.

POST-RACE RECOVERY: 1 hour after

Athlete Experience: Sebastian KIENLE

Depending on the result, there is a lot to do: interviews and so on… I try to drink a lot also because of the doping control so that I could get it done quick. During the waiting time for doping control I try to have a protein bar or a protein shake. I have to force myself to have that after all the sweet stuff during the race.

The most important elements of post-race recovery:

  • Hydration. Optimal would be something with a good mineral content, also cooling is important after a hot race like Frankfurt to help the body to bring back core temp to normal.
  • Eat something easy to digest with a protein cab ratio of 1:2.
  • Keep moving if possible to not completely shut down processes in the body.
  • Cooling. Especially important after a long-distance race.
  • Rest. Even if you can’t sleep, lie down legs up.

Coach insight: Lubos BILEK

After a big competition, like Frankfurt or Hawaii, in which an athlete places near the top, the athlete doesn’t really have the possibility to start their recovery in the right way.

There’s media interviews and thanking the audience. The NADA inspector stands behind the athlete and he has to go through the doping control. In this high-pressure situation, the only thing the athlete can do is drink enough water so that he can pee for the doping control and try to supply energy and egg-white for the muscles.

After that he goes back to the media again so there’s no time to eat properly nor time to be alone and start the recovery process.

POST-RACE RECOVERY: 8 hours after

ATHLETE EXPERIENCE: SEBASTIAN KIENLE

Within 8 hours from a race, I get some light massage, still plenty of fluids and more rest.

COACH INSIGHT: LUBOS BILEK

About 4 hours after the finish, a top professional finally manages to get to his hotel room to take a shower and rest for a couple of minutes. Some physiotherapy would be desired at that time.

Than he will eat (mostly quite unhealthy because the head needs that to switch off and enjoy life). After that the athlete has to come to the finish line again for appointments, which means recovery suffers.

POST-RACE RECOVERY: 24 hours after

ATHLETE EXPERIENCE: SEBASTIAN KIENLE

If you can, go for a walk to keep the system running and the blood flowing. A massage is a good way to keep blood flow going.

As active recovery workouts, I do aqua jogging, walking or hiking and e-bike tours.

The first night after a race I usually very bad. Your body is still full with adrenalin and is handling a lot of stress, so I try to get a good nap later during the day.

BILCOACH INSIGHT: LUBOS BILEK

After all the appointments after the competition the athlete will go to bed around eleven. In most cases they only lie there unable to sleep. Most people don’t believe that and think that you fall asleep immediately after such a day.

That’s not the case. The body and the head are running on full power and don’t let the athlete sleep. If the athlete can sleep for 4–5 hours, they can be happy.

The athlete tries to find a bit of quiet, usually with family, to recover mentally.

POST-RACE RECOVERY: 48 hours after

ATHLETE EXPERIENCE: SEBASTIAN KIENLE

Easy activity to keep system running and more high quality protein to help the body to repair micro traumas in the muscles. Now the body is ready to sleep as well, so lots of sleep.

As for race analysis, we usually do a quick analysis directly after the race and then a real analysis 10 days after the race.

BILCOACH INSIGHT: LUBOS BILEK

After the awards ceremony on the day after the competition, the athlete goes home and the relaxation and (mental) recovery can begin. The faster the head recovers (after the pre-competition and competition stress), the faster the body also recovers. If the result was good, the athlete’s happy and if the athlete’s happy, mental and physical recovery is easier.

I analyze the athlete’s race data some days after the competition – if the emotions have returned to normal. In my opinion, only after that you can make a good analysis.

Post-Race Recovery: 168 hours (7 days) after

ATHLETE EXPERIENCE: SEBASTIAN KIENLE

Now you can start to do more activity again, I prefer to ride my e-mountain bike with my wife or go for hikes. It’s not only important for physical recovery but also mentally.

I pick up my normal training routine 10–12 days after a race.

COACH INSIGHT: LUBOS BILEK

In the first week after an Ironman my athletes don’t do any serious training. They will go in the water (more to splash than to really swim), take easy walks, drive an e-bike. No training! Recovery is most important. 

It’s best that athletes spend time at home with their families or on a short holiday, where people don’t know them and they can enjoy peace. I find that mental relaxation after an Ironman is more important for a triathlon professional than the physical recovery.

Usually we pick up normal training after 3 weeks. To recover and get ready for the next competition, the professional needs up to 6 weeks.

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

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