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Whether you’re training for a huge event or just going from couch to 5km there are training plans galore to get you moving. We all know that if we put the effort in we will complete our goals and hopefully have another badge of honour to proudly display.
I cycle crazy milage in the summer and love to have at least one big challenge to aim for. However, I want to prevent injuries, stay supple and most importantly get my body to old age in the best shape possible.  So how can we train hard, lead an active life, prepare for the future and get the most out of ourselves without crossing a very dangerous line?
Often overlooked is how important recovery, rest and repair are. 
I have learnt the hard way! I should have known better of course being a Physical Therapist but I am human too. I have pushed my body to the point of exhaustion, I have picked up injuries and I have scars.
So here are my own personal top tips to keep you in prevention mode rather than booking appointments to see me! 
Recovery, rest and repair. A hero’s guide to looking after your body!
  • Recovery starts as soon as you finish your training session. Hydration!! It’s not rocket science but we need to replenish. (Please remember to drink water during activity too!) When I was training for marathons my shorts would be covered in salt that I had basically sweated out. Get electrolytes back into you. We need salt for water retention. If your training hard you need to ensure you get salt in your diet. Try coconut water, adding a little salt to your dinner, some salty peanuts etc. Salt is your friend when you are training hard!
  • Replenish your tummy! Protein is for repair. Hard boiled eggs are great to have in the fridge for when you come home.  Try a glass of almond milk? A green smoothie with protein powder perhaps? Chicken sandwich? Make sure you have something healthy and protein based for when you get back to ensure you don’t eat rubbish. Eat lightly and give tummy a chance. You can have the main event in a little while.
  • Ice bath.. for the brave. I swear by them after my long runs and cycles. Top tip, fill the bath with cold water before you leave the house and have bag of ice ready to go. Otherwise it’s too tempting not to take it. There is a lot of conflicting evidence about the benefits, personally I always feel great after a cold bath or dip in the sea. If you prefer have your shower and finish off with just cold water! It really does make you feel great- honestly.
  • Shower and Massage. While in the shower give your legs and bum a good old massage. I like to use an anti cellulite massager for this. It boosts circulation and really does give you a nice rub down. (See picture) After a tough session go easy, your body has been through enough.  You can use them every day  and go a little more firm on down days.
  • Rub down. After your shower get out some body lotion or oil and give your legs another massage. Always start at the ankle and work your way up your leg. Imagine your washing windows- nice big circles and no need to be fussy.
  • Compression socks: I have already had my varicose veins removed and I really don’t recommend that! Prevention is best. I like to wear my compression socks for a few hours after a heavy session. Helps with fatigue. If you are on your feet a lot with work for example, wear compression socks daily.

1.Get a rub down. 2.Remember to stretch. 3.Get plenty of sleep. 4.Use massage balls. 5.Massage in and after your shower. 6.Elevate your legs.
  • Elevation: get those legs up high! Leg drains are amazing, lie on the floor with your legs up the wall. Depending on your hamstring flexibility you may need a slight bend in your knees. Reversing the vascular system and using gravity as your friend your legs will feel brand new after elevation. It also is also great for your heart and organs – when we are upright gravity is pulling them down and the blood from your feet is going against gravity. Whole body benefits from inversion / legs elevated. If you can do a headstand or handstand for more inversions!
  • Stretch: While you have your legs up the walls why not play around and have a bit of a stretch. eg. Open the legs in a V shape and relax here. Bring the soles of the feet together like a frog and allow hips to open out. Draw circles with your feet to loosen up ankles. Just have a play about and see how you feel.
  • Roll it out! Everyone’s favourite! Foam rollers and massage balls all have their place in aiding recovery. I prefer to use them against the wall. When we lie on top of them we have our whole body weight on them and that’s just too much! Up against the wall we have more control, we can apply pressure as required and have more control on the intensity.
  • Sleep. Often we don’t sleep our best after an event or training session. We might have taken caffeine shots and gels. There maybe just too much adrenaline in the body. System is a little out of whack. If you don’t sleep so well try and have a lie on the next day or plan to go to bed early the next night instead. We repair at sleep. If we are not sleeping we are not repairing!

Other things you can do to keep your body in tip top shape:

  • Go for a massages regularly.
  • Join a yoga class or build a stretch routine into your week.
  • Cross train – do something different every now and again.
  • Ensure you get enough rest and sleep.
  • Visit a nutritionist if you are unsure what you need to eat.
  • Follow a structured training plan which has light days, hard days and rest days.
  • Listen to your body. If you have had a stressful week and no sleep how can you expect it to perform? Maybe go for a walk instead of hammering it out.
  • Be kind to your body always, it’s the only one you have and spare parts really aren’t that easy to come by
  • Be realistic! 3 times I ran myself ragged to get a sub 4 hour marathon and 3 times I failed!       (I did finish!) Had I not pushed so hard and been more relaxed about it I probably would have nailed it!
So I hope you find my guide useful. Try and do a few things off the list after a heavy session and see how you feel the next day. Remember it’s not about crossing the finish line just once. A healthy body is required for a healthy mind. Pain is exhausting, injuries are annoying and very inconvenient. Prevention is always better than cure- you reap what you sow, karma etc etc etc! Show your body the respect it deserves and it will last for the long haul!



About the Author:
Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor, based in Rathfarnham, South County Dublin. She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners & golfers. Featured in the Irish Independent, FIT Magazine, her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety.
A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including La Marmotte Sportive. She is currently training for Mont Ventoux Cingles, June 2018.  Sinéad has also completed 3 Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races and Half Marathons.

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