On several occasions this year I have worked with athletes who have raced on consecutive weekends or had key races very close together. Prime examples are Natalie Seymour who finished second in IM70.3 races at Barcelona and Weymouth both one week after Pais D'aix 70.3 and the 70.3 World Champs consecutively; and Louisa Vere who recorded a 1 hour 35 PB at Ironman Austria two weeks after the ETU Age-group Championships. So back-to-back strong performances are possible when well planned but what is the main focus of training between the two?
If you too choose to race back to back weekends then most important thing is to recover properly from the first race. Most people will work harder in a race than in their toughest training session which places even more importance on the recovery. Try these techniques to help speed recovery and prepare for the next race.
1) Hydration. After finishing an event most people are dehydrated. With a lower blood volume the hear will have to continue to work harder to maintain the oxygen and energy supply around the body. Starting to rehydrate straight away will help replenish your blood volume and improve the rate at which substances helping recovery will reach your muscles.
2) Cool down and active recovery. A light bike ride, a walk, some gentle aqua-jogging (with your feet touching the floor), a swim with a gentle kick set, swimming pool volleyball... all really useful techniques to get the blood moving around the body in a gentle manner to help remove waste products and bring in fresh oxygen to promote fast recovery.
3) Nutrition. Further to hydration the sooner you can get nutrients into your body the quicker the body can start to repair muscle and replenish stock of carbohydrate. This means not only is the first 20 minutes important for high-GI carbohydrates and protein, the first 2 hours for further low-GI carbohydrates but onwards into the next few days to maintain good healthy meal choices. Fresh food, plenty of fruit and vegetable 7-10 portions per day (more vegetables than fruit) and good quality carbohydrates (Quinoia is a favourite of mine) will all increase the rate of recovery.
4) Sleep. For the biggest factor in recovery - hit the hay. Plan in plenty of time to close your eyes, release lots of human growth hormone and increase your recovery.
5) Massage. A light massage is thought to help flush out the muscles of waste product and increase the blood flow to the muscles, again to increase oxygen supply. We're not talking about deep work here just a gentle flush through will be enough.
6) Compression clothing. Ever-wondered just how many of your triathlon-loving colleagues are wearing compression clothing under their work clothes... An interesting one however, like many of the other techniques here compression clothing is thought to keep the muscles warm increasing the blood supply while the compression aids in return of the blood towards the heart to be circulated again around the body again. You'll get the idea, gently increasing blood flow through the muscle with as little effort as possible is a useful tool in improving recovery.
7) Race pace work. A wise coach once said to me, if your speed isn't back your body is not recovered. You might be able to knock out a 3K swim session at mediocre pace but if you are not sharp then you are not ready for the next race. Keep sessions short for the first few days and then add short bursts at race pace. Assess how you feel after these short bursts and allow them to dictate how much more you do. Feel good, do a few more. Still feel sluggish then cut and go home. Learn to listen to your body to know when the sharpness returns.