Congratulations! You have just completed a 5K, a 10K, a half-marathon, or a marathon – a huge accomplishment, no matter how you slice it. You have likely been pushing your body to new levels for a while now while you were in training, but now that the race has happened, your body is in recovery mode. Here are our best tips for how to have the most effective race recovery so you can prevent injury and get back on the pavement to prepare for your next victory.
First up: Cool down
Right after you finish your race, your body needs time for your heart rate to come back down and your muscles to cool off. Going from 100 to zero is not a good idea. After you cross the finish line, consider jogging at a slower pace for up to 10 minutes, then loosely stretch your muscles – just enough to soothe your legs. This will not only help you prevent muscle soreness but also potential injury as well. You have put your body through something it might never have done before, so it must be handled with care.
After your cool down, hydrate your body! This can help you maintain body temperature, lubricate the joints, rid waste, and properly transport nutrients. Also, replenish the calories you burned during the race with fresh fruit or another snack that provides solid energy replenishment. Wash it down with a sports drink to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. After a couple of hours, nosh on a hearty meal that includes low-fat protein and complex carbohydrates (think chicken and brown rice or fish with a side of sweet potatoes).
Many runners report that foam rolling is their key go-to after a race. Stretching of any kind will help minimize your pain and discomfort from muscle tightness.
Soreness is to be expected
Many runners experience delayed onset muscle soreness, which can occur 24 to 72 hours after the race. This can leave runners having trouble transitioning from standing to sitting, walking, and climbing stairs. Immediate and “next-day” soreness is the body’s chemical response to the race, which produces inflammation that can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Allow your body ample time for rest and relaxation – at least a couple of days to recover, and, even after those two days, a light run to ease back into the flow of movement. Go slow on your workouts for about a week as you build up to your normal running schedule. Sleep is also critical in getting your body back up to where it was pre-race.
That said, after a race, you’ll want to avoid being completely immobile – this will result in even more joint stiffness and muscle tightness. Keep in mind that your muscles are healing, so it’s important to move mindfully, avoiding intensity in those initial days.
Incorporate weight training
To prepare for your next race, if you haven’t done so already, consider mixing in weight training to strengthen the major muscle groups in your legs and core. This will help reduce injury for future races. Consider cross-training as well, all in an effort to make your body stronger and more powerful.
No matter if you did as well as you’d hoped or not, remember what a feat of dedication it is that you completed a race at all. Celebrate yourself because you deserve it!
What happens if I don’t practice proper recovery tips?
If you don’t take care of your body after a race, you could experience injuries like sprains, strains, and stress fractures. At Southlake Orthopaedics we have some dedicated folks who are committed to the sport of marathon racing. Micah Morgan, CRNP who works alongside Dr. Bill Craig, when she isn’t seeing patients in clinic she is continually training and competing as an ultra-marathon runner. We are here to answer any questions post your race if your pain lasts longer than a week or doesn’t improve a few days after a race. Reach out to our team of experienced professionals at Southlake Orthopaedics. You can book an appointment easily by clicking here.