Post-race recovery is one of the most important dynamics to master in running. Runners tend to ride the adrenaline wave for the week or two following the race and add in more miles or run faster paces than their bodies can handle. You felt awesome on Saturday’s half-marathon, so you must be stronger and can keep going, right?
Wrong. What x-ray vision would show you is that your muscles were broken down in the race, and now they need some TLC to repair. Your body is actually at a higher risk of injury during this time. You might not feel the fatigue, soreness, aches, or slowness immediately, but the side effects of a shortened recovery time can appear weeks or months later in your training schedule.
Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all plan for recovery. The amount and time of rest you need depends on the race length, time, effort, terrain, training, and age. One person’s 5k race will differ from another’s; one marathon may leave a runner more ragged than another; and a 55 year old is going to recovery at a different rate than a 21 year old.
We talked to our staff and put together Fast Break’s tips for post-race recovery. Apply these to your body’s needs and your race’s distance to create a personal, beneficial, and healthy recovery time.
#1 Listen to your body
Yogi’s are great at this. They are tuned into how their muscles feel with each weight shift and movement that they can tell when their body doesn’t feel quite right. If you go on a short, easy run 3 days after a 10k race and are still feeling “heavy,” or “slow” then take another 2 days off. Rest up, do some yoga, listen to what your body is telling you.
#2 Respect the distance
The longer the race, the longer time you need to recover. The longer it takes you to run the race, the more time you need to rest. This applies to the winner of the marathon as well as to the last finisher in the 10k. So for example, a 5k racer may need 3-4 days off from running, while a half-marathoner may need 7-9 days and a 100 mile ultra trail runner probably needs 3-4 weeks (or more!).
#3 Active rest
Don’t stop moving as you rest. During your post race recovery, get an extra hour of sleep, take short walks, do some easy yoga. The goal is to get fresh blood moving through your body.
#4 Eat the right nutrients
Post race, you should immediately consume protein and carbs 15 to 30 minutes after the finish. In the days and weeks following, listen to your hunger cues and eat enough (until you feel full). Feed your muscles with nutrients, not just calories. Make sure you’re getting a balance of complex carbs, proteins, and healthy fats. Listen to your cravings. If you’re craving meat, you probably need protein. If you are craving something salty, then you probably need the salt for hydration. And of course, drink up! Stay hydrated! Overall, eat what your body needs and what you enjoy because you deserve it after killing it in that race!
#5 Maintain motivation with cross-training
When you come off of the race-high and are forced to rest and recover, motivation can take a dip. To resist a psychological breakdown, add in cross training exercises that are not as hard on your body but are fun. We suggest elliptical training while watching a movie, bike riding with friends, hiking a easy trail, stand up paddle boarding with an easy swim, or yoga with your local Fast Breakers (on Tuesdays at 6:15!). Use the recovery time to enjoy life, get some fresh air, and reset for the next round of training!
If you still have questions on recovery, drop by the store, comment below or hit us up on Facebook. We LOVE to talk about all things training and running (like we even needed to say that).