Essential Sports Nutrition


Did you recover today?

My latest article on (or in the FREE Irongirl newsletter) could not be more appropriate right now. Regardless if you are recovering from an Ironman, training for a 5K or exercising for fitness, training is not finished until you take care of yourself and recover.

Did you recover today?
Marni Rakes-Sumbal, M.S., CISSN

Do you take an ice bath after exercise? Do you have a protein smoothie after a high-volume workout? Do you give yourself more sleep to compensate for increases in your weekly training volume? When was the last time you had a massage?

Wouldn't it be nice to live the life of a professional athlete? Well, if the average fitness enthusiast is looking to get stronger after exercise, reduce the risk for illness or injury and speed up recovery after exercise, it's time to train like a professional athlete. Maybe you don't have the luxury to train whenever you want and a 5 a.m. spin class and a 30-minute after- work run is a successful training day, but if you want to improve as an athlete, proper recovery needs to be vital part of your fitness and exercise program.

Proper nutrition is only one of many ways you can recover after exercise; apply some of the following physical recovery tips to your current exercise routine. Stayed tuned for the next Iron Girl article, which will focus on nutrition and recovery.

1. Ice

If you've ever been injured, you probably know the phrase "heat before the workout, ice after." However, you don't have to be injured to enjoy the benefits of ice. Although scientific research is inconclusive on the effectiveness of elite athletes taking ice baths immediately after exercise to reduce risk of injury, it doesn't hurt to try.

Although ice baths and wrapping your legs, lower back or arms in ice may be impractical as you rush off to work, you have other options. In addition to using commercial ice packs, which should always be wrapped in a cloth to avoid skin toxicity, try to plan your longest and most intense workouts on days when you can give yourself 15 to 20 minutes after the workout to relax with a freezer bag of ice. This can help to reduce inflammation, soreness and pain on your exhausted muscles. There are also many types of ice shorts or wraps on the market, which may be convenient for your busy lifestyle.

2. Sleep

Chronic sleep deprivation has a tremendous effect on hormones, such as growth hormones thyroid and cortisol, which may negatively affect glucose tolerance, the inflammatory response and your metabolism. Although there is no set number of required hours of sleep per night, athletes should aim for between six to seven hours of continuous sleep on most days during the week. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and avoid eating within one to two hours of sleep. If you must have a snack before bed, opt for slow digesting low- fat protein foods (around 50 to 100 calories), as opposed to quick-digesting carbohydrates, such as a bowl of cereal or ice cream.

As you add volume to your weekly training schedule, be sure to give your body more time to recover by adding 30 to 60 minutes of extra sleep per night for every one to two hour of extra weekly training volume. Short naps after exhaustive workouts are another option for those who just can't add more sleep during the night. Restful sleep is the most important type of sleep for an active athlete. The more you wake up during the night, the more you stop your REM cycle, which results in one groggy, sore and tired athlete in the morning. If you feel like your workouts are in a slump, skip a workout one morning and give yourself an extra hour or two of rest. Your body will thank you, and you will really enjoy having an extra boost of energy during your upcoming workouts.

3. Stretching

There is little validated research demonstrating a positive relationship between stretching before exercise and reducing risk of injury during exercise. However, regular stretching is a vital component in any exercise program. As far as stretching before exercise, a proper warm-up is an effective way of loosening-up the muscles and increasing range of motion. In reference to reducing the risk for injury, stretching before or after exercise may or may not ensure an injury-free season. Nonetheless, stretching after warm-down from exercise has a valuable role in the recovery process, which includes reducing the risk for injury.

Whether you prefer static stretching, passive stretching with the use of a stretch cord, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), yoga or Pilates, stretching will increase flexibility, improve range of motion, increase blood flow and reduce muscle soreness. As you stretch, focus on major muscle groups (quads, hamstrings, back, hips) first and move toward smaller muscles groups (shoulders, neck, calves, ankles). Hold each stretch for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat two to three times as you feel yourself becoming more mobile.

Regardless if you are injury-free or if you suffer from acute injuries, chronic pain, tight muscles or a high- stress life, make an effort to treat yourself to a massage with a trained sports massage therapist at least once a year.


Behind the Scenes in Kentucky

A few of my favorite shots from no particular order.
What's your favorite pic? :)


IMKY - Run course

I think the marathon makes the IM so daunting. Whenever you tell a non-triathlete about the distances of an IM, you always get the wide-eyes when you mention a marathon (yes...26.2 miles) as the last part of the race. Considering that most people aspire to complete a solo marathon sometime in their lifetime, as a goal to prove they can do it, I have a hard time thinking that I just ran a marathon, after biking 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles. Perhaps the marathon at the end of an Ironman scares most people from even considering signing up for an IM so for all IM finishers out there (and IM hopefuls) remind yourself how amazing you are for being an IM athlete.
After giving my bike to the volunteers at the BIKE IN inflatable, I took off my cycling shoes and ran in my socks to my T2 bags. I ran into the changing tent and once again, I was alone in there. My volunteer was great (once again) and helped me change into my Hammer Tri shorts. Other things I had in my bag were my running shoes, visor, fuel belt, Garmin (which my friend Jen let me wear since my Garmin has been giving me some difficulties with the satellite), flasks filled with powder (1 scoop HEED + 1 scoop aminos) and 2 pill dispensers with endurolytes and hammer aminos. Since it is hard to take pills while running, I stuck 1 pill coin dispenser in my sport bra and carried the other pill dispenser. I also had an IT Band strap with me which I debated on wearing for the run. I have used the strap in the past (2005 was the last time) when I had bad IT Band pain but whenever I wore it, I always felt like I felt 10x's better. So, if the placebo affect worked then for 3-6 miles, hopefully it would work for 26.2 miles. In my bag I also had a spare race belt with my number, an extra pair of socks and an extra pair of sunglasses. I had a special needs bag with 2 more flasks w/ the same powder mixture but I didn't plan on using it. I also carried three Hammer gels (2 vanilla and 1 plain) which I took at miles 7, 16 or 17 and mile 22 or 23.
Since I had hip pain getting off the bike, I tried to ignore it and just start running. I saw my mom right out of transition but I didn't want to tell her that my hip was bothering me. It was a quick run through downtown until we made a right hand turn to the bridge. This was the "biggest" incline of the run so I welcomed it since my hip/butt tends to do better on inclines. I didn't even realize that I was running on water (I'm not a big fan of bridges) because I was so focused on my running form. Karel was on the bridge with his bike so I was so happy to see him. I really wanted to know my place on the run since the TT start makes it hard to track down other girls in my age group but I didn't ask him at that point. I needed to get into some kind of rhythm before pulling out my competitive side. Also, I needed to convince myself that I could run a marathon before I got overly excited about even finishing this thing.
I told Karel that my hip was really hurting me and he said "no it's not, you are doing great". He just kept telling me I am fine and I guess I listened for a few more miles. After the 2 mile I started my fueling strategy at every aid station. I started with water at mile 2 and 3 and at mile 3, I needed to fill up my flasks with water. I walked through the aid station to fill up my flasks and started to feel my hip/butt tighten up. Whereas many athletes experience all types of soreness and pain off the bike during an IM, I knew exactly what I was feeling and it was the same soreness I felt a month and a half ago. I had gone into this race knowing that I could get into a zone and just run and I did just that. Whereas in training for the past month, I never wanted to just keep running because I was worried about re-injuring myself and not getting to the starting line for IMKY.
I ran for another mile and walked the aid station. At mile 4, after I walked the aid station I stretched my leg on the curb. I extended my rt. leg and put my rt. heel on the curb so that I could stretch my butt/hip area for a deep stretch. OK, good again for another mile. After mile 5 I was getting really sore in my hip area so I decided to put on the strap for my leg. Although it was a strap for the IT Band, I felt so good with it on. Well, as good as I could have felt with a sore hip at mile 5 of a marathon.
I drank water at every aid station and sipped on my heed mixture every other mile. I took 1 amino every 30 minutes and 1 endurolyte whenever I could remember. Although I was hot, I didn't really feel I needed to emphasize the endurolytes as much as I needed the aminos to keep me focused and preserve my glycogen stores. I poured ice down my shorts, poured water on my head and sipped on water as I walked through every aid station. After I did all that, I stretched and then kept on moving.
I was not against stopping at the aid stations and during the entire run, I never worried about my finishing time. For some reason, I just felt like I could brake 11 hours if I ran a 4 hour marathon. I wasn't even sure of my running time, I just looked at my watch and tried to keep each mile around 9 min/miles at each mile. This included my walks through each aid stations. Some stops were longer than others but when you walk through an aid station, it just seems like time is just ticking by. However, whenever I saw Karel on the course (he was ridding his bike, cheering for everyone) he would keep yelling at me that I am doing great and that it was good to stretch it out. I only saw Karel a few times, probably because he made a stop in Starbucks as I was running. I guess he needed a boost from being an IM spectator. He was also calling my parents who were at the finish/turn around area as well as receiving calls from our coach (shawn) who was keeping him updated on my position.
It was really frustrating not knowing how I was doing in my age group because deep inside, I really wanted to get on the podium. I would ask Karel how I was doing and I usually heard "7th place or 6th place".
I stayed true with my IM plan because I had several goals for this race (being as competitive as I am) and because I knew what my body was capable of doing. The fact that I was injured in July, I couldn't run for 2 weeks, my longest run was 18 miles (with walking and lots of stretching and soreness) and my average pace for 3 weeks was around 8:30-9 min/miles (with no interval running training for the past month and a half due to my injury) I was just fine with running my 9 min/miles. Because I needed to stretch at each aid station I had to run around 8:15-8:30 min/miles to give me some cushion time. But I never "tried" to run faster than I thought I could, I just kept putting one foot infront of the other until I reached the next aid station.
So, with all that stretching and fueling at each aid station, I'll talk about the course.
I loved the course. It was 2 loops and the turn around was right before the finish (semi-frustrating) at mile 14. I LOVED turning around at mile 14 rather than 13. Something about knowing you are more than half way when you turn around is a major mental booster. So with my hip pain semi-subsided with the strap on my leg, no GI problems (which I owe to not taking in any Gatorade except for a little at mile 22 and 24) and no bonking or lack of energy, miles 14-18 went by really fast. I absolutely LOVED running mile 12 and 13 because there were SO many spectators downtown by the finish and I could not have smiled any bigger. I looked at the finish line at mile 14 and just got excited to run the second loop. I kept telling myself "I can do this, I can do this."
So, at mile 20 my quads were hurting sooo bad. I loosened up the strap on my leg but that didn't help. I knew I didn't need to take endurolytes because I was well-hydrated and I rarely (f ever) experience dehydration cramps. I knew the cramps were from my muscles telling me how much they were (ok, were not) enjoying this marathon. However, my mind and heart WERE enjoying this marathon so I just kept running. I saw Karel at mile 23 and he yelled to me that the other girls were slowing down. Not sure if they were, but that was a great booster for me. I told him my quads were BURNING but he kept telling me how proud he was of me and that I was doing great and looking good. Even the spectators were telling me I was looking good (don't you love spectators, they tell everyone you look good, you have a great smile and you are almost there...even if none of those are true :)) and that was a great boost. I think it is normal to feel sore at the end of an IM so I just kept pushing and pushing until I reached mile 24. I had to stop. Oh how bad I just wanted to keep on running with being only 2.2 miles away but my quads would not let me go any longer. I even had to stop .5 miles later to shake out my legs. When I reached mile 25, I was overcome with happiness. I AM GOING TO DO THIS!!! I looked at my watch and looked at the time of the day..I think it was around 5:40-5:45pm when I looked at my watch and I had a sub 11 hour finish in my sight. I didn't look at my watch again so I never really knew what my finish time would be when I reached the finish line. I started picking up the pace for the last mile and when I saw the spectators, I was just running like I was on mile 1. I was smiling so big and I could feel my eyes tearing up with joy. When I saw the sign "FINISH STRAIGHT, 2nd LOOP TO THE RIGHT" I moved as far to the left as I could....yay baby....HERE I COME.
The finish line chute was amazing. People everywhere and I was about to finish my third IM. I was lifting my arms in the air well before I reached the finish line and my smile couldn't have been bigger.
I felt so strong, so unbelievable so overcome with emotions. When I finished Kona, I barely walked over the finish line. Let's just say that I hobbled my way down the finish line chute, being passed by 80+ year old and fell into a volunteers arms because my legs could not go anymore. I still don't know how I finished that race. After Kona, I was upset because I didn't enjoy the finish line of the IM. There is something about an IM finish that leaves me speechless. Ask an IM finisher and the finish line goes by so fast, you just want to run over it a million times.
I reached out to hit the hands of the spectators and I ended up giving my mom a high five and not even knowing it. When I ran across the finish line, I felt great!!
NO pain in the hip and I felt amazing. OK-I was super sore but I felt like this was my race. I raced my plan, completed my time goals and had a Personal Best IM time by 6 minutes! I have looked at the results at least 10 times just to make sure I really broke 11 hours.
Finish time: 10:54.46
Swim: 1:04.20 (1:40 pace)
Bike: 5:44.21 (19.5mph)
Run: 3:57.43 (9:05 min/mile)
7th place age group
266 overall
34 overall female
22 amateur female