Achieving an appropriate balance between training stress and recovery is important in maximising performance. The cumulative effects of training induced fatigue must be reduced during the weeks immediately preceding competition, and a wide range of recovery modalities can be used as an integral part of the taper to help optimise performance. The recovery modalities discussed here will include massage, hydration, nutrition and climatisation.
1. Massage: There is no definite research to suggest that massage therapy following eccentric exercise (leg curl, bicep curl) has a significant effect on performance. Although, from my experience as a competitive swimmer, I would disagree. Nontheless, recent research has suggested that the combination of 30 minutes manual massage, following exercise, and 12 hour lower limb compression (wearing compression clothing) significantly moderated perceived soreness at 48 hours and 72 hours after plyometric exercise (explosive exercise) in comparison to passive recovery or compression alone.
2. Hydration: Environmental heat stress can challenge the limits of an athletes cardiovascular and temperature regulation systems, body fluid balance and performance. Research recent has shown that a small decrement in hydration status (body mass loss of 2.3 percent) at the start of a 12km race impaired physiological function and performance while running in the heat. This finding highlighted that the maintenance of adequate hydration during the taper and especially during the 48 hours preceding the competition is crucial that performance is not diminished.
3. Nutrition: Energy can be altered during a taper. Reductions in training-load will invariably lower an athletes energy expediture and potentially impact on energy balance and body composition. This being so, athletes should pay particular attention to their energy intake during a taper to avoid energy imbalance. Prior to competition, research has suggested that to match energy intake with energy expenditure and to optimise glycogen stores, athletes should consume a carbohydrate intake of 10-12g of carbohydrate/kilogram of body weight/daily, 36 to 48 hours prior to a race.
4. Climate: Many competitions take place during summer and in warm environmental conditions, and exercising in the heat can lead to serious performance decrements. The process of acclimatisation to exercise in heat begins within a few days and full adaptation takes 1 to 2 weeks for most individuals. Recent research has shown that trained cyclists who heat acclimatised increased their VO2Max (Maximum uptake of oxygen during exertion), time trial performance and power output by 8 percent in hot conditions.
Best wishes to everyone participating in the Sparke Helmore Triathlon.
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