You’ve been training for weeks to prepare for a big event and you just recently ran your race.
Now what? My guess is that you’ve already started planning your next race. Am I right?
That’s great, of course! But first things first. To keep running and seeing improvements, don’t forget about the importance of post-race rest and recovery.
Following a race, you are more prone to overuse injuries or other post-race problems. To stay in top shape, it’s important to allow for adequate rest for your body to recover and repair.
How much rest and recovery do you need?
The amount of rest you need will depend on
- the distance you ran,
- how hard you ran it, and
- how you feel afterward.
Each individual will require a different amount of recovery time before resuming regular training. To determine how much time you need, first and foremost, listen to your body. Different factors such as sleep, diet, age, running experience, and fitness level can change the amount of recovery time you need.
The farther you ran and the harder you ran, the more time off you will need for recovery. If you feel unusually tired, or have persistent soreness or pain, wait until it subsides before going for a run and check with a medical specialist if the pain or soreness lingers.
If you ran a a full marathon, for example, one-week of complete rest is often needed. This can include daily active rest (which is often a good idea) of gentle walks and cycling to reduce soreness and stiffness. For a half marathoner, you may need half a week’s rest. And for a 5 or 10K, give yourself a day or two.
However, remember that this is not the same for everyone.
Your recovery plan
A common formula for post-race recovery is one day for every mile “raced” (by “raced” we mean giving it your all that day).
That would be 26 days for full marathoners, 13 for halfers, 10 days for 10-milers, and 6 days for 10K. Of course, this is just one formula, but it’s a reasonable amount of time to recover before thinking of “racing” again (or training hard).
Some people may need more time than others. When in doubt, err on the side of caution to avoid possible injury.
After a few days, if you’re feeling good with no problems or concerns and you are fresh and ready to start again, begin with EASY running. Following a week of easy runs, a good plan to get back into training might be to do a “reverse taper,” which means to follow the weeks at the end of your training in reverse. For example, if the weeks leading up to your 21K event you ran 18, 15, 12, and 10 kilometers, a reverse taper would mean to do 10, then 12, 15, and 18 kilometers after your initial weeks of recovery from your race.
Full marathoners, you will probably need more time (a few weeks) before incorporating harder workouts. Interval sessions can also be replaced with a tempo paced run.
Listen to your body
Follow a proper recovery plan and never forget to first and foremost, listen to your body!
If you feel more tired or sore than usual, or if you feel any unusual aches or pain, take an extra day or two off or reduce your running time and/or intensity. Keep in mind that when your body is still recovering from a race or a new increase in distance or training, you are more susceptible to injury.
Do allow yourself proper time to recover before pushing speed or distance. It may seem difficult to take it easy, but taking adequate recovery time will allow you get stronger, faster, and fitter once you resume regular training.
For faster recovery
- Get adequate sleep. More may be needed while you are recovering.
- Take proper rest on OFF days. This means reducing or postponing other activities.
- Continue with cross training after taking proper rest, but avoid starting new activities during recovery.
- Watch what you eat. Nourish your body with healthful, nutrient dense meals with adequate protein. Avoid highly-processed foods and opt for whole foods that are nutrient dense (think fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds!).
- Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! You’re body functions optimally when it’s well hydrated. Kept it functioning at it’s best for an optimum recovery.
The next step
Once your recovery plan is in order, now it’s time to reflect on your race, plot a strategy for the next one, and pick a new race.
When reflecting on your race-day performance and deciding what to do next, you might ask yourself these questions:
- How was my race? Did I go out to fast? Did I fade at the end?
- Was my finish time too ambitious for a first try?
- Was my breakfast sufficient?
- Did I hydrate well enough or get enough sleep?
- Could I have been more consistent with my training and had an easier time or improved my performance?
- How did my stomach feel after the sports drinks, gels, and bananas?
- Did I have any pains that could be avoided next time (blisters, chaffing)?
- Would music have helped with running solo?
- Would a racing partner have helped?
- Should I have run my own race?
If you “hit the wall” or struggled to finish, you might check your splits and reflect on your starting speed. A faster start can often lead to a crash or cramping.
Also think about your hydration system. Did you replenish your electrolytes sufficiently? Was it warmer than usual and we’re you sweating more, losing more electrolytes? Perhaps gels or sports drinks earlier on could help next time?
Most of all, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for your big accomplishment. There is so much we can learn about ourselves through running. Keep it a learning experience and you’ll never be disappointed!
How’d your last race go and what did you learn? Got any recovery tips that work well for you? Please share with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!