There it is, the finish line. This is what the weeks and months of training have let up to, and it is finally just a few strides away. You get one last burst of motivation, extend your legs a little farther, pump your arms a little harder, and make one last push. Your first thought is, “I did it!”. And then it’s over. Or is it?
There is so much focus and planning that revolves around preparing for the race, but what about recovering from it? Recovery is an equally important part of your training plan! Proper recovery will help you remain healthy, and help you get back to achieving your next running goal that much quicker.
Optimizing post-race recovery through nutrition will help to reduce soreness, fight inflammation and promote faster healing. The best post-race strategy is to have a plan, and to understand what your body needs.
drink ample amounts of fluids during and after your race to replenish fluids lost during exercise. If your race was run under particularly hot conditions, or you tend to be a “salty sweater”, sports drinks are appropriate for rehydration. Otherwise, stick to good old water.
Restoring your muscles post-race is a must! Consuming carbohydrates will help replenish glycogen stores, and protein will help promote muscle repair. The typical rule of thumb is to consume 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight (along with a bit of protein) within one hour of exercise. Examples of this include cereal with milk and fruit, oatmeal with berries and peanut butter, or a smoothie prepared with fruit and low-fat yogurt.
If you are unable to consume solid foods after a race due to nausea or stomach upset, and to get some form of nutrition, such as a sports drink.
That post-race “Runner’s High” is what running and competing is all about, right? You feel on top of the world knowing that yes, you are strong, athletic and all-around amazing. All the time and training you put into the race was worth it, and now, you are ready to celebrate! Go ahead, you deserve it! But, remember…don’t undo all that hard work and progress you gained through training! A special post-race celebration meal with the girls, or that sprinkled cupcake you were dreaming about during the whole race is a great reward, but remember moderation is key. Choose your post-race indulgence wisely, and don’t extend your post-race celebration to a post-race week celebration!
Non-Nutrition Related Recovery
-Walk post-race to return your body to its natural resting state, and to help flush lactic acid from muscles
- Soak in cold water/ice bath for 10-15 minutes and wear compression socks during the day to decrease inflammation
-Wait at least 6 hours before foam rolling, this allows time for your muscles to be replenished
-Keep moving! Slowly being to re-incorporate low impact activities, such as swimming or biking, into your routine a few days after your race. Exercise promotes circulation which brings nutrients and oxygen to tissues, which aids in recovery
-Get a massage after soreness is gone to help relieve tension
-Run for fun!: The hard training is over (at least for now!), so use this recovery time to get back to what running should really be all about….fun! Take time to enjoy your runs without the pressure of needing to run a certain distance and a certain speed. This will help you regain your love for running if training left you feeling a bit burnt out.