5 Tips for Ultra Trail Recovery

5 conseils pour récupérer après un trail

Well done ! 

You are finally "finisher" of this race that you have been preparing for a long time! Indeed, there is a lot of talk about how to properly prepare for an Ultra trail both in terms of training and equipment, but what about when it is finished? During this ultra trail, your body has accumulated a lot of metabolic waste during exertion and repeated muscle contractions. One of the main goals of recovery will be to recycle and eliminate these metabolic products by facilitating venous return. Here are 5 tips to achieve this:

1 - Active recovery

You have accustomed your body to a very sustained sporting rhythm, so it has become accustomed to a high level of mechanical stress. So stopping it all at once wouldn't be good.

- What is advisable to do is complete rest for 4-5 days to a week (this will depend on the number of km, the amount of effort provided, etc.), without sport.
- Then gradually, over 3 to 4 weeks, resume physical activity by focusing at the beginning on sports worn (cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing ...) and without a great intensity (around 65% -70% of your heart rate in the first weeks up to 75% FCM in the last weeks).

This so-called “active” recovery is very common among athletes and is even a “gold standard”. Indeed, the goal will be to achieve muscle contractions to facilitate blood flow and venous return and thus eliminate the accumulated waste. The human body was put to the test during this Ultra Trail, resuming with worn sports, does not completely stop physical activity, while preserving your body.

2 – Electrostimulation

Already well adopted in the daily life of athletes, both professional and amateur, electrostimulation has a very interesting aspect on recovery (in addition to TENS, muscle strength, etc.). The recovery program will be based on low frequencies. The principle of neuromuscular electrostimulation will be based on two main effects:

- The muscle "pump" effect: It is not for nothing that the human body's second heart is said to be nothing other than the calf. Indeed, the succession of muscular contractions will create intramuscular pressures facilitating venous return and blood flow.
- The release of vasodilation factors for smooth muscles in blood vessels: blood vessels are made up of smooth muscles, among other things. By contracting, the lumen of the vessels will be reduced, this is a vasoconstriction. By relaxing, the lumen of the vessels is increased, this is vasodilation.
This being the theory, in practice, there are few specific studies on this topic (recovery by electrostimulation) while some even wonder about the significant muscle damage it could cause.

3 – Massage

The famous sports massage, we are finally talking about it! First of all, the massage involves different maneuvers which will depend on the effect you are going to seek. What will mainly interest us are massages focused on drainage (venous and lymphatic) and on muscle relaxation / relaxation.

Despite the beliefs and popularity of massage, many studies show that massage is ineffective and does not speed up blood flow and the elimination of metabolites.

A study carried out on 96 athletes within the France pole of the Ligue Nord-Pas de Calais (LNPC) athletics at CREPS in Wattignies concluded that "the recovery massage as we propose it allows a very significant improvement on the feeling of muscle pain, muscle fatigue and well-being ”.

In conclusion, even in the real absence of physiological and physical effect, massage has a very important psychological dimension with a state of well-being and a marked decrease in the perception of fatigue.

4 – Compression

In full swing lately, especially during effort, compression also has its place in recovery.
Compression aims to increase extravascular pressure around the blood capillaries, and thus facilitate the passage of excess fluid and metabolites out of the muscular vascular network. As seen in part 2, the calf is considered to be the second heart of the human body, so it is this area that will be favored by restraint during recovery. Many brands on the running market offer this type of product, so take your measurements carefully to get the product that best suits you before you go to the checkout !

5 - Cold

In this part we will talk about 2 types of actions you can do: Contrast immersion/hydrotherapy and cryotherapy.

Contrasting hydrotherapy, behind this term hides a very simple principle, alternating immersion in cold water (between 9 to 12 ° C) and in hot water (around 35 ° C). Vasomotricity being the main mechanism put forward for this technique, indeed, as seen above, vasoconstriction of the blood vessels will occur following the application of cold and vasodilation of these same vessels following the application of heat. It is the alternation of vasomotricity that stimulates blood flow and thus creates a "vaso-pumping" system. This facilitates blood circulation, increases the supply of oxygen and increases the movement of metabolic substances to be released. Other studies have also suggested that the origin of the benefits of this technique, was only due to the "cold" part.

This therefore leads us to talk about whole body cryotherapy. It's a technique that appeared at the end of the 1970s in Japan with the aim of treating inflammatory rheumatic pathologies. It then developed very quickly in Germany and Poland.

But it is in the last 10 to 15 years that it has really democratized. Very fashionable lately, we can see on the various running shows or on social networks, these species of large upright freezers where the athlete will put himself in.

It consists of putting the body (including the head or not) very briefly to extremely low temperatures. Because cryotherapy is fairly recent, little data is available on the subject. Despite everything, the scientific literature tends to say that there are beneficial effects rather on the inflammatory and antioxidant side. These effects depend of course on the protocol used (number of sessions, frequency of sessions and duration of sessions). This recent technique therefore offers good prospects.

6 - Conclusion

To conclude, we have seen together 5 tips for a better recovery after your ultra trail. Of course, this list is not exhaustive and other things must be put in place! I am thinking in particular of sleep, diet, hydration etc., we will talk about it in future articles dedicated to these subjects.


Written by Alex LESOIN
Ultra trail runner.

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