Having just returned from doing the Formentera Olympic triathlon, I thought it pertinent to give you some pre- and post-race tips. These tips are also useful if you’d like to feel healthier and more energetic, whether you’re planning to take part in a triathlon or not!
Preparing for a triathlon
I can hear my dad’s voice in my head, saying: “Always be prepared…whatever you are doing.”
My biggest mistake is always being far too relaxed. If you want to do well, make sure you are well informed. Even if you’re just there to enjoy the day, you’ll still want to do your best.
Always check out the swimming, biking and running courses in advance. It is essential to know what to expect from each course and to know where you are going. This can save you a lot of time and avoid unnecessary mistakes and penalisations.
I’ve seen many people bike straight past the transition or ride down the run leg. Not only does this waste time but it’s dangerous and you look a bit foolish. Some courses are not very well marked out and, although you think it’s going to be obvious on the day, this is not always the case.
Visualising success in a triathlon
Visualisation is not only the key to success in events but also in life. Visualising yourself doing well in every part of the race will create new pathways in your brain that will help you on race day.
Since visualising is key, looking at the course in advance can help you on the day with regard to finishing the race in a strong position. If you can visualise something, it almost makes it happen – within reason!
When the struggle builds up and your knees hurt, or you feel you’ve had enough, the mental picture you have in your head of that finish line keeps you going.
Plan for changes
Quite often things take a turn for the unexpected, so plan for changes.
Be prepared with your clothing and food. Take extra water and a snack just in case the race is delayed for some time.
Take a wet suit with you. Sometimes the organisers change the rules and allow you to wear a wet suit. If you’re allowed to wear it, you will swim faster.
Take sun block and a cap in case it’s sunny. Make a list of things to take with you to the triathlon and check it before you leave home.
Practice makes perfect
Do a dummy run of the day beforehand, so you know what to expect.
Nutritionally wise, hydration is as important as eating healthy food, if not more so. Your muscles need water to contract and to stay flexible.
I use both water and coconut water. I make sure I drink a lot in the days leading up to the race and on race morning. Also eat plenty of fresh vegetables and some fruits, which, when eaten raw, have a high water content (see below).
Eat lots of vegetables
Consuming lots of vegetables in their raw state means you are also naturally hydrating your body and providing a valuable source of fibre which nourishes your gut biome (the bacteria living in your intestines). Doing triathlons can be fairly severe on the body, so it is essential to consume adequate vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and nourish your gut biome.
I prepare a lot of vegetable smoothie-style meals because broccoli sprouts have been shown to yield more carcinogenic protection when they are ground. I love the texture of smooth, thick soups rather than chunky ones, but they are also easier on your digestive system. Keeping the whole plant rather than just juicing it also naturally boosts fibre intake, helping to keep you regular (once a day should be the norm).
Nourish your gut biome with foods referred to as prebiotics. These feed the microorganisms that make up the gut biome. The gut biome, which has gained a lot of press recently, has been linked to various disorders including lack of energy, low sex drive, impaired brain function and performance, constipation, disturbed sleep and weight-loss issues.
Also, if your gut biome is not balanced properly, you will have trouble digesting foods. This means you can eat all the kale in the world, but your body will not be able to break it down and utilise its nutritional properties.
Isothiocyanates are found in kale and all cruciferous vegetables. They inhibit the production of enzymes that can instigate cancerous cells, and they help to protect against damage to DNA, so they are great news for anti-aging, too.
During a race for an Olympic distance or below, I never eat during the course. Sometimes, even for longer races, I don’t eat at all during the race because I find that, if I have eaten food I’ve prepared properly before the race, I don’t get hungry and have an abundance of energy, even long after the race has finished.
I always have a good dinner the night before and breakfast on race morning.
Sometimes my digestive system can be a bit sluggish. Remember you may get a little nervous naturally and this can interfere with digestion. Eat fatty foods, like eggs, nuts, oils, and cheese, because they take a lot longer to digest and are also a source of high energy that is highly sustainable throughout the race.
Leading up to a race, my nutrition is more or less the same as usual, but I do eat more beetroot and dark chocolate. I have a special brownie recipe that I make using these two ingredients, which are not only high in antioxidants and nutrients, but they are also great for enhancing athletic performance.
I eat these brownies in the days leading up to a race and will also have one on race morning.
The nitrates in beetroot and dark chocolate increase energy in the absence of oxygen and enhance athletic performance. They are also a great form of energy.
It has been shown that nitrates work even better if they are allowed to accumulate in the body over time. In other words, make sure that they become a regular feature of your nutrition during your training regime.
Post-race recovery tips
I like to make soups with my homemade bone broth, broccoli, fresh parsley and coconut milk, as well as pepper, sea salt and occasionally some blue cheese – just a sprinkling to give it a bit of a bite.
Parsley is great for detoxing the body and has been shown to reduce inflammation by lowering the levels of genes involved in inflammation activity. A study of women showed this to give a staggering 34% reduction in cancer incidence.
Additionally, parsley contains Luteolin, a compound that has not only been shown to decrease cognitive decline but also to enhance cognitive performance. This soup is an incredible pre- and post-workout magic potion – perfect for your joints and cartilage, great for protein repair and full of minerals.
I always like to finish off on a positive note which has to be about how much I love what I do and how I feel my best when I´m competing in a triathlon, a swim and obstacle course race, a bike rally or whatever else takes my fancy. I cannot recommend it enough – but perhaps this is more of a personal thing.
I love to compete with myself and be out there. I am so very grateful for these events; the people behind them, who put in so much time and money to close roads and have back-up points; and all the volunteers involved in making it happen – thank you to all of you.
For advice on fitness, exercise, nutrition, health and wellness, my beetroot and dark chocolate brownie recipe, or finding out how to start a group class in your area, please get in touch. You can find all of my contact details here.
Written by Katie Handyside
About the author
Katie has a lifetime worth of experience in health and wellness and has worked globally including LA, Vancouver and Seattle. She not only focuses on nutrition and exercise but also blood work, over-all health analysis, heart rate variability, sleeping, oxygen therapy/ altitude training, papimi and other treatments. She has a whole host of tools to ensure a 360’ approach to having you feeling the best you can.
Previously based in STP , Palma’s super yacht boatyard for over 5 years , Katie is now mobile which means she is able to train you on board your yacht, at the beach, in the park or at home – training and nutrition brought to you.