Triathlon Training Tip: Affordable Recovery Tools to Avoid Injury

This last weekend, I spent Saturday on the bike for 40 miles doing basically hill after hill…after hill. Sunday, I went out for a run (Well, actually, a wog- click here for info on that!) on those same hills, for another ~12 miles.

I also spent almost an hour in my Normatec compression boots on Saturday after the ride and woke up Sunday not really feeling like my legs were tired. Honestly, I was kicking myself, thinking I should have ridden more Saturday. By the end of the long wog, my legs were toast. My quads seared, my hamstrings threatened to spasm. I managed to get a drink and some salty chips before crashing in our recliner, where I spent another ~60 minutes in the Normatec. I felt so much better, but could tell how empty I was.

In years past, I would never have been able to tackle the run on Sunday after a ride like that. And, ok, maybe age has something to do with it. Over the years, I have gained a huge appreciation for post-exercise recovery. Without adequate recovery, injury will be your friend.

  • While I love my Normatec beyond belief, they are pricey.  Normateclegs
    • Less $: You can find them for discount at races- I got mine at the show booth by signing up to purchase one of the demo models that I picked up at the end of race weekend at a several hundred dollar discount.
      • There are also competitors out there with alternative models that are less expensive, though I have no experience with them.
    • There are also physical therapy places that allow you to sign-up for a Normatec session for $10-20, even if you are not one of their patients.

For us, with several seriously athletic types in our family, some of us in physical therapy, it made sense to make that one big purchase to try to avoid injury and more expensive therapy in the future. We have more than recovered our costs in the zillions of hours we have used them.

But there are plenty of recovery options right at your fingertips that are not expensive.  Here are some of my favorite cost affordable items that everyone should have in their recovery tool chest: 

  • Water-

No, I’m not kidding. Yes, it sounds boring, but getting enough fluids to help your circulation and maintain hydration is a big key to recovery. As much as I love a good beer after a huge workout, water is the better choice (you can still have that beer…later). Water with some electrolytes-especially sodium, magnesium, and calcium– is ideal, but you don’t have to spend cash for the expensive sugary stuff or fancy mixes. Grab water from home and a handful of pretzels. To get a little calcium in to boot, you can chew on 1-2 Tums. A handful of almonds gets you some magnesium. You don’t need massive doses, just some replenishment. If you’re training right for a half or long distance triathlon, you’re already supplementing during the training with electrolytes.

  • Post-Workout recovery drink-  

Again, I’m not talking an IPA here. Sorry. One of my favorite cheap recovery drinks is chocolate milk. Honestly. It has a reasonable carb to protein ratio, simple sugars that will kick in sooner, and calcium. And for the last half of that really hard workout, I can dream of that chocolate milk treat. There are tons of expensive choices out there- and many are really great. But I like simple and inexpensive. The important thing is to get in some protein, with carbohydrates to support their utilization to help rebuild the muscles you just trashed.

  • Compression socks- 
    • While folks can argue all they want about whether or not there is data to support the use of these, my personal study says they help. (My Guinea pigs are myself and my husband). I put them on after a long run or bike ride and wear them the rest of the day. If I’m going to be standing a lot at work, I wear them under my pants. There are a million types out there. Just figure out what you like.
    • If the cost is a barrier: 
      • Less $: You can really even go to the discount store and get the compression socks that are marketed for people with poor circulation (generally heart patients and the elderly). They won’t be neon green and pink, but they will do the trick at about a 1/4 of the price.
      • Free: Or after your work out, just lay down and prop your legs up against the wall of your home to let the fluids drain downward. You can do this on the couch to watch TV, but make sure your legs are propped up above your heart level to promote the flow draining down the legs toward your body. Also, get a pillow, ’cause if your like me your gonna just fall asleep like that.
  • Sleep-
    • I hear about the elite athletes napping between workouts- lol. I think my boss would have issues if I slept at work! But what I have begun to do is get a little more sleep at night. It is hard, when there are piles of laundry end everything else. When you sleep your body sends out chemicals that help repair tissues and build up your muscles. Without that recovery sleep, eventually, things will catch-up with your body as either immune suppression or injury.
  • Lacrosse ball ~$2
Lacrosse balls

NOT for right after the work out, but for in-between times. I get mine at the used sports equipment store for $2. But you can go to a sports store or Amazon and get one for $4-7 depending on how many you want the color. Rolling your feet on the Lacrosse ball, sitting on it to roll into your glutes, using it in your hand to massage the quads….there are all kinds of ways to make that Lacrosse ball loosen up tissue. There are lots of Youtube videos out there on their use.

  • Foam Roller ~$20  
foam roller

This is the one place it pays to get the little better quality, denser foam, not those flimsy white rollers that fall apart and crush. You need one that will last and take your weight again and again. With a million choices out there, I go with the simple, very dense foam roller. You can also get the one’s that look like medieval torture devices- depending on how deep into your tissue you want it to go, but you don’t really need anything but the basic rollers. And you MUST use them regularly to do good. Don’t wait to get injured to start.

  • Time-
    • This is the most precious thing you can offer your recovery. If you say you’re too busy, then you’ll never get it done. Even 5 minutes to prop your legs up is better than nothing. 5 minutes tonight on the Lacrosse ball while brushing your teeth is better than nothing. Physical therapy or taking weeks off of training is much, much more costly.

Are there any recovery methods that work best for you? I’d love to hear about them!

Train healthy!



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