What to do after a race…. recovery!
You put in the hard work and you had a great race, maybe even set a Personal Record! Now what? Race recovery!
Congratulations to the athletes I coach who raced this weekend. For some this was their goal race and they trained for 8-16 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 race 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. If your clothes are wet, change them and get comfortable.
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’s a simple exercxie to do: 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 but I still benefit from this. 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 one to three days of total rest, then easing back into some activity. Active recovery can reap huge benefits – easy biking, walking, swimming or Yoga! My favorite yoga resources is Yoga with Adrienne.
Don’t be afraid to go for a short jog a few days after your marathon. I know you will be sore and tired but I find an easy jog can help speed along race recovery. You do NOT want to take an extended period off unless you have an injury. I also highly recommend getting a professional massage. Other beneficial things you can do are foam rolling, self massage with Arnica gel or Tiger Balm, and some gentle stretching.
After a longer hard effort, our immune systems get tired as well. Make a point of getting some high quality sleep. I highly suggest to the athletes I coach to take extra vitamin C during the taper period and for at least a week post race. You don’t want to have an unplanned rest period due to being sick.
Since you won’t be running much this week, use the extra time to focus on race recovery. 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.