So you recently ran your big goal race. Whether you crushed your 5K PB, held it together for a half or finished your first marathon, allowing the body and mind to recover is essential for future success. Chances are that you’re now feeling some typical post-race pain and need to schedule some time dedicated to race recovery.
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You’re going to need to take some time off now, of course, but there are also ways to speed up the recovery. We break down the best ways to bounce back from your race. Friends, here’s your checklist:
Drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water, is one of the best ways to hasten recovery. Being properly hydrated ensures that the cells, muscles, joints and tissues all function optimally. Being well-hydrated also helps regulate body temperature, eliminates waste products and repairs damaged tissues. It has obvious implications for running performance as well. If you’re not already drinking eight cups of water a day, you should definitely aim to increase your consumption. Drinking to thirst is generally a good guideline but you may have to remind yourself to drink more.
Getting adequate amounts of sleep in the days and weeks after a big race is critical for recovery. While you’re sleeping, your body is making necessary adaptions needed to perform at its best. Like what exactly? Well, your muscles are being repaired, hormones are circulated and fuel stores are replaced and topped up. Sleep is critical to both physical and mental health. Although the amount of sleep one needs varies between individuals, almost everyone would benefit from getting between 7 and 10 hours of quality sleep each night.
Replacing the fuel used during a hard race is of utmost importance in the hours following. Aim to consume some carbohydrates and protein shortly after your race is over. Eating a balanced diet in the days and weeks following is also sound advice.
Depending on your level of soreness and overall fatigue, taking a break from running is definitely a good idea. A general rule of thumb is to take one day off for every mile of your race. Rather than running, you could also consider cross-training workouts like swimming, pool running, cycling or the elliptical. A yoga class or meditation session may also be good for the mind as well as the body. When you feel up to it, you can gradually reintroduce running back into your schedule. One other thing: don’t force yourself to exercise or work out if you don’t want to. If you want a break, take one guilt free.
Getting a sports massage after a hard race. This is an effective way to accelerate healing. Assuming you’re not too sore and the muscle damage isn’t severe, getting a massage will help increase circulation to damaged muscles and tissues. In turn, that’ll help remove waste products and facilitate tissue repair.