What to do after a race….
You put in the hard work and you had a great race, maybe even set a Personal Record! Now what?
Congratulations to the athletes I coach who raced a half marathon this weekend. For some this was their goal race and they trained for 8-12 weeks in order to run a PR. For others it was a hard effort that is part of their training. Regardless of the situation proper recovery is essential.
You had a great finish, they placed the medal around your neck, and now you just want to sit down… DON’T!
Immediately after finishing, try and replenish fluids. I suggest chocolate milk because of the carbohydrates and proteins, but sports drinks with electrolytes are also beneficial. Continue to walk around if you can. At the local half, it was rainy and chilly so most runners were wet when they finished. It is a good idea to change out of your wet clothes as soon as you can. It was in the 50’s yesterday, but one of my runners had blue lips! Get warm.
Most of us do not feel like running a cool down, stretching, and foam rolling after a race, myself included! One of my favorite recovery tricks is the yoga pose, Legs Up On Wall. If you can do this pose within 30 minutes of finishing, it can speed up recovery by improving circulation. It is simple to execute: Lie down on your back and try to get your butt as close to the wall as possible, extending your legs up, perpendicular to the floor. I can share with you my butt does not get very close to the wall, and I still benefit. Open your arms to the sides, palms up. Focus on relaxing and breathing deeply.
In the hours following a race, be sure to refuel with a full meal. After racing a longer race, I tend to listen to my cravings. Sometimes I want a salty soup, and sometimes I want a burger and fries (but tacos are ALWAYS a favorite)! I DO make sure I eat protein to help rebuild muscles and I increase fluid intake. Take some time to stretch, self massage, foam roll, and take en epsom salt bath. You do not have to incorporate all these methods, but I do suggest one or two.
The week after a race, you need to listen to your body and adapt. If this was your goal race, you need some time to recover. This is where having a coach can be an asset. You want to focus on recovery but you do not want to lose fitness. Depending on age, running history, and injury tendency, I recommend a day or two of total rest, then at least a week of easy running. You do NOT want to take an extended period off unless you have an injury. I also highly recommend getting a professional massage!
After a longer hard effort, our immune systems get tired as well. I highly suggest to athletes I coach to take extra vitamin C during the taper period and for at least a week post race. I usually do this, but got lazy after Boston. I now have had to take some unplanned rest due to being sick.
I have another blog post that discusses active and passive recovery that can be found here: https://run717.com/2019/02/18/recovery-8-weeks-until-boston/
Contact me with your recovery questions, or if you are interested in being coached.