4 Race Recovery Tips
Congratulations! You finished your race! No matter what distance you ran, you’ve achieved a major accomplishment and for that you should be proud.
By now you are most likely feeling sore and tired. That’s to be expected. Whether you are basking in the glory of finishing or dreading the idea of ever doing that again, your next step needs to be focusing on recovery.
The most underrated thing you can do for your body after a race is to rehydrate. You’ve undoubtedly lost a good amount of water throughout the race, so start drinking. Water is your best option. While sports drinks offer some key electrolytes, they also offer large amounts of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup. The risk benefit ratio is not worth it, in my opinion. You can replenish the sugar through high quality food choices that won’t terrorize your stomach and pancreas.
From fat and sugar to protein and glycogen (sugar stored in muscle tissue), you burned a lot of energy. It is tempting to grab anything and everything post-race, especially in the spirit of “deserving” it, but try to make good choices. Your body will thank you.
Rightfully, a lot of attention is paid to eating carbs after a race; maintaining your blood sugar level is important. But don’t forget about fat and protein. These are just as important, if not more. You’ve broken down and damaged protein throughout your race, so now you need to repair it. In order to do this, you need to feed your body the proper building blocks. Meat, nuts, cheese and eggs are great choices. You most likely didn’t find those in the post-race food line, but they are good options to have at home.
I prefer runners to restore their blood sugar and glycogen stores with real foods like fruits and vegetables. Taking this approach will also provide you the key electrolytes (e.g., sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium) you need while skipping the sugar-loaded, and most likely high fructose corn syrup loaded, sports drink everyone keeps telling you to guzzle. Try making a smoothie with whole fruit, fresh or frozen, as your sugar. It is a great way to get a lot of nutrients packed into one drink.
The day of the marathon, you need to take a load off and be a couch potato. Your immune system is compromised for a few days after running a marathon, so it is important to take a break from training. This gives your muscles the rest you need to start the repairing process.
When you wake up the day after the marathon, it is important to start moving unless you have an injury. Refrain from moderate and high activity and stick with light walking or biking. This gets the blood flowing into your muscles which flushes out the toxins and waste products that have built up during the night and brings the reparative nutrients into the tissues.
Treat yourself to some soft tissue therapy. Massage, stretching, Active Release Technique and Graston Technique are good options. If you injured yourself during the race, get looked at immediately. For general tightness and soreness you will want to wait 2-3 days before having any of these treatments performed. The inflammatory process lasts anywhere between 24 – 72 hours. When the acute post-race soreness has subsided you will most likely be able to tolerate some level of treatment.
This step is important to prevent future issues. Muscles will neurologically adapt to a shortened position if they are shortened or tight for an extended period of time and vise-versa. When muscles are shortened they become weaker. This will also create an imbalance between the opposing muscle groups. That’s the perfect recipe for a future injury.
You are now on your way to recovery. Remember to take a week or two off from running to rejuvenate your body. If you can’t because another race is just around the corner, take it easy. Make sure you have any injuries or tightness treated while you are in your recovery time. Lastly, don’t forget to check your shoes to see if you need to replace them, and you will be set for your next race!