Having just returned from the fantastic Ironman 70.3 World Championships I have some recent experience of travelling with athletes and seeing the toll on the body that the travel takes. Whilst travelling to a race is a necessary evil, and perhaps many of you are not going as far as SA, there are things to you do to ensure that you arrive in good shape to race.
DURING YOUR TRAVEL
Wear your compression socks. Triathletes love compression gear! So I probably don’t need to encourage them to wear them however during a flight or a long trip, along with for recovery there actually is some science to suggest that they will help blood circulation and minimize swelling of the feet. There is pretty much no science to suggest that compression gear will improve performance however so I’ll save that rant for another post!
Move. If you are flying to your destination race then get up and walk around every 20 minutes and avoid sitting too long. Stretch your calves while seated and standing. If driving or being driven try and stop every hour for a little walk around and stretch off the calves, quads and hip flexors.
Food Choices. I’d bring my own healthy snacks on the trip, good airlines will allow you to book your food choices before you fly with meals being provided for special diets so make sure you do that. Stay hydrated but not overly saturated on the trip and avoid alcohol particularly on flights.
Timing.Depending on the distance of travel I would always advise getting out to the venue early, in our case we flew on Monday and arrived on Tuesday ahead of the Women’s race on the Saturday and Men’s on the Sunday. Clearly for a more local race you don’t need to arrive this early but for the bigger 70.3/Ironman distance type races I do feel this helps.
I was lucky enough to meet six time Ironman World Champion Dave Scott in South Africa and one of the things we chatted about was training after a flight. We had elected to fly through Doha, Qatar which actually has a gym and a pool so our Performance Edge athletes were able to get a little workout there during our 8 hour hold over and we incorporated some of the sets below.
When you book your trip ensuring you either have a pool at the destination or nearby and checking opening times can be a great help before you fly. If you can get a little swim in after arriving
The rationale of this swim set is really to shake off from the flight so keep the session short and keep the reps short. So swim 25s or 50s with a good 15-20s rest in between. Mix up the strokes so as well as freestyle, include some breast stroke and backstroke. Just keep the intensity nice and low and feel the benefit of being in the water after a long travel day.
Once you have build the bike then getting a little ride in after your travel day is also a good way to get rid of some fatigue from the travel
Again this is not a session more it is an opportunity to firstly check your bike mechanicals over and to ensure all is working correctly. If not you have time for yourself, or a local bike shop or expo mechanics to help correct the issue. Secondly it is a chance to blow away some cobwebs from the flight. Again keep the intensity low but I think on the bike including a couple of short pick ups of perhaps 20 – 45s is a good idea and also standing as well as sitting whilst riding to stretch the hip flexors. One thing Dave Scott mentioned was to drop the heel to stretch the Achilles and soleus.
A little shakedown run perhaps the day after a travel day can help to get you race ready. I know Ironman World Champion Peter Reid used to do a run straight off the plane when he got to Hawaii but this could be too much for us mere mortals so I’d advise triathletes to wait a day if they can
Similarly to the swim and the bike the rationale of the run is to get a little stretch in or the major muscle groups that will have tightened on the trip. Like the bike I would add some 20s pick ups into the run but the majority is just a gentle jog. Dave Scott again talked about the Achilles on these runs and felt that walking backwards dynamically stretched the Achilles and hamstrings. During the run don’t be afraid to stop once warned up and have a gentle dynamic stretch of the calves, quads and hip flexors.
Finally when you are at these more major races you will see athletes in the days befor e the race going way too fast in their workouts. Stick to these post travel sessions and you’ll give your body the best chance to recover from the travel. Take it easy, make healthy food choices and you’ll feel more refreshed and ready to go for the next race. Which is the day you have trained to go fast!