I truly believe that recovery is almost as important as training when it comes to racing.
I totally get it: you’ve run the race of your life and you simply can’t take another step after you’re done. But if you cross the finish line and just stop moving, you’re likely to feel more tired, not less.
A cooldown walk helps your body transition from hard effort to its normal resting state. It helps get rid of that nasty lactic acid that might be at the center of DOMS (delayed onset muscle sorness) quicker.
It’s really a good idea to walk around for a while before you take your well-earned rest.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
You generally can’t drink enough during your race to replenish fluids/electrolytes lost on the run. Not unless you love that sloshing feeling in your stomach or want to hit every portapotty.
If you’re like me and you prefer straight water on long runs (although I am really digging Lytezone — read my review here), you do need to make sure you replace the electrolytes you’ve sweated out on the run.
Refueling is actually easier if you’ve fueled properly before and during your race. So don’t overlook increasing your carbs slightly in the days leading up to your race — carb loading the night before is probably not beneficial, and could actually be harmful (making you too full and sluggish), but that doesn’t mean you need to nix carbs altogether.
The “experts” say that those first 30 minutes after a race/hard run/long run is crucial for getting in some carbs and protein, generally in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. You may not feel like eating — which works perfectly with point2: hydrate.
Drink water, grab that Gatorade or chocolate milk. If you do feel like you could eatallthefood, have a recovery bar or indulge in some of the post race food. Eat a banana, a bagel with peanut butter, cereal and milk — during your training is the time to experiment with your post race nutrition.
Refueling doesn’t end in those first thirty minutes, though. You want to try to eat a meal about two hours after your race. Shoot for a regular meal — some protein, some carbs, some veggies. And continue to restock your glycogen stores over the next few days with quality carbs (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, oats, bananas).
Keep in mind I am neither a coach nor a nutritionist.
Legs up the wall
I have to admit, as someone who loves her yoga, I rarely remember to actually do legs up the wall — which is exactly what it sounds like, scoot your butt as close to the wall as you can get, then swing your legs up and rest them against the wall — unless I actually manage to get in some recovery yoga.
Legs up the wall will help your tired legs feel better, and relieve cramping and swelling among its many other benefits. I really must remember to do this since I am prone to muscle cramps in my legs — sometimes hours after a long run or race! And not only on hot days, I got cramps after Wineglass, too (read my review here).
Foam rolling is simply an aided form of self massage. There are many benefits:
- Helps break up knots
- Helps increase mobility & flexibility
- Helps break up scar tissue
- Helps lengthen out those muscles that get so tight while running hard/long
Foams rollers aren’t expensive, they last a while (but the foam does eventually soften), and it doesn’t take much more than a few minutes of your time post run. The biggest problem with foam rollers is lugging them around — I’ve been known to do it with races we drive to, but when we fly, I bring my Original Worm with me (read my review here).
So let me know in the comments:
What is your top recovery tip?
What would you add (this list isn’t complete!)?
Do you even think about recovery after a race?