post-race recovery

After weeks of training for your big event, you just recently ran your race. 

Now what? 

Before you start planning your next event, first things first. 

To keep running healthily and seeing improvements, don’t forget to take your post-race rest and recovery seriously.

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

  1. the distance you ran,
  2. how hard you ran it, and
  3. 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.

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.

If you ran your first 5K or 10K, give yourself a couple of days of well-deserved rest. If you’re a bit sore the day of or the next day, give yourself a few more days of rest until it goes away.  Then, resume with an easy run before picking back up with your usual training.

For faster recovery

  • Get adequate sleep. More may be needed while you are recovering.
  • Get adequate protein.  Protein is important for muscle recovery, strengthening and repair.
  • 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 event.

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 too fast? Did I fade at the end?
  • Was my finish time too ambitious for a first try?  Or could I challenge myself a bit more the next time?
  • 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?
  • 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?

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!

Laurie Villarreal

Laurie’s an accomplished endurance athlete and has been running since 1998. She’s the founder of House of Running and a professional Running Coach, a certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, and Health & Wellness Coach. Laurie’s trained and worked with nearly 1000 runners since 2010. She’s a master in her field with over 10,000 hours of run coaching experience. Laurie helps ambitious professionals make running part of their healthy lifestyle through on-on-one online coaching and fun group training programs. She has a unique holistic approach to running, helping her runners think beyond running to realize their running dreams. Click here to find out how to work with Laurie in one-on-one online coaching.

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