Ironman Recovery: Tips From A Veteran Competitor

With the Well+Good SHOP, our editors put their years of experience to work to choose products—from skin care to personal care and more—that they’re sure you’ll love. While these products are selected independently by our editors, making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission. Happy shopping! Explore the SHOP

While some people prefer to spend a Saturday watching Netflix and relaxing, for Jill Walker, there’s nothing better than going for a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, and culminating in a 26.2-mile run, also known as a career. Ironman Triathlon.

Walker completed his first Ironman in 2007 and was instantly hooked. “I just, you know, enjoyed being out there all day,” she says. “What better way to spend a day than to swim, bike, and run?”

Which is why, in the past 16 years, he’s completed 68 of these extreme-endurance triathlons. That math works out to more than four Ironmans per year. For comparison, it takes the average athlete about five to six months to train for this type of race, and then another two to four weeks to recover.

However, Walker isn’t exactly average. Earlier this year, she and her husband, Dougin, completed six Ironman races on six continents in six weeks as part of their quest to join the “club” of people who have done every Ironman in the world (a club of which there are currently only five members). Last year, they completed two Ironmans in one weekend: one in Kalmar, Sweden, on Saturday, followed by another in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sunday. The Tampa, Florida-based couple even tied the knot on the cycling circuit during the 2022 Ironman in Cozumel before finishing the rest of the race. Casual.

Walker’s number one key to recovering well enough to compete as often

This begs the question: How in the world does anyone keep their body not only healthy, but fit enough to compete in major endurance events so closely? (and walker is competitive: During her six-in-six-week challenge, Walker won her age group in the Philippines and placed second in Brazil).

“Sleep is my superpower,” Walker admits. “I get, on average, nine to 10 hours a night.” Even in foreign hotels, or on planes on travel days, he sleeps well, he says. “I can lie down anywhere and go to sleep. Once my head hits the pillow, it’s like I go into a coma,” he jokes.

Jill Walker. Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images for Ironman

This ability to sleep helps explain how Walker can handle such high volume. As the experts will tell you, sleep is the most powerful muscle recovery tool we have. “Non-REM sleep is associated with the highest levels of growth hormone release during the day, which allows muscles to heal and grow,” Ben Smarr, a professor of bioengineering and data science at the University of California, said previously. of California in San Diego. good+good. That human growth hormone helps repair microscopic muscle tears that occur during exercise, helping your body recover and get stronger.

And for endurance athletes like Walker, the muscle repair process that occurs during sleep also helps improve the body’s endurance, according to Jeff Monaco, director of education at Gold’s Gym. “If a person engages in resistance training, the body will respond by increasing the oxidative capacity of those muscle fibers through increases in mitochondria density and size,” he previously said. good+good, adding that sleep also helps keep your endocrine, immune, and nervous systems functioning properly so your body can function at full strength. (FYI: Mitochondria are the battery packs of your cells, aka power sources.)

Walker has long relied on the effects of all this physiology. “I know there are a lot of people who say, ‘I can sleep six hours and be fine,’” he says. “I’m just not one of those people.”

Your other recovery tools

Sleep may be the main recovery technique Walker uses to get him starting line after starting line, but it’s not the only one. Here are some of his other non-negotiables:

1. Chocolate milk

“We drink chocolate milk after any type of training, any type of race,” says Walker. Research has shown that this tasty kid’s treat has an optimal ratio of carbohydrates to protein for post-workout recovery.

2. Consistent bodywork

Walker and Dougin go to a chiropractor and also get a 90-minute massage every week. “It’s not a relaxing massage,” Walker clarifies, laughing. “Our masseur hits us, but it’s what we need.”

3. Normatec Boots

Hyperice’s Normatec 3 Legs use a rhythmic series of compression from the feet to the hips to stimulate blood flow for faster recovery. “They also make me sit still,” Walker admits.

4. Massage guns

Walker regularly uses portable massage guns, which have been shown to increase muscle strength and power and reduce muscle soreness. In fact, owning one is such a “must-have”, that when the pair forgot to bring their Theragun to a race, they ended up buying a Hypervolt while there. They also own the Theragun mini for easy packing. “It helps cool you down and makes you feel better,” says Walker.

Our editors select these products independently. Making a purchase through our links may generate a commission for Well+Good.

Rate this post

Leave a Comment