10 Post-Race Running Recovery Tips
After a hard running race you need to know the strategies to help your body recover. Here are 10 of the best post-race recovery tips.
1. Drink Up
Rehydrate as soon as you can after your race. If it’s been a hot day, you’ll probably be very dehydrated (ever had the salt-encrusted-face look after a race?) Even if it’s been a cool day, rainy or worse, the exertion of racing will mean you’ll have sweated out precious water, minerals and electrolytes. Make rehydration one of your key post-race recovery strategies. Aim to take on 35-50ml water per kilo of bodyweight, and pop some electrolyte tablets, drops or powder in there too.
2. Cool Down
Tempting as it may be, don’t just stop and sit down after you cross the finish line of your race. Jog a little to bring your heart rate down and then walk around to stave off stiffness. Use the time to cheer on runners yet to cross the line, take in the sights of race day or just soak in the atmosphere. Cooling down is particularly important if you’ve got a long car ride ahead of you.
3. Eat To Recover
After a race it’s very important to get the right food on board if you want to speed up recovery. We suggest packing some snacks in your post-race bag, asking one of your support crew to look after them or – if you’re by yourself – keeping them in the car. A good mixture of carbohydrates, protein and a little healthy fat is good: try a banana, dried fruit, nuts and a yoghurt, homemade trail mix (your favourite nuts, seeds, dried fruit or berries and some dark chocolate), a sandwich or bagel filled with nut butter, chicken or sliced meat, tuna or cream cheese, or a good old protein shake paired with some crisp juicy fruit.
4. Gentle Massage
Promise yourself a gentle massage to flush out lactic acid and toxins. You could do this onsite at the race or the following day. Just ask the massage therapist to be gentle, and use long, flushing motions, focusing on the quads, hamstrings and calves (although you may find your lower back and upper arms need some work too particularly if you were racing hard).
When you get home, spend 30 minutes or so stretching your legs and back out. Use a foam roller if you have one to speed recovery and make your post-race running stretches even more effective. If you have a willing partner, ask them to help you with assisted stretches so you can go a little deeper and hold the stretches for a little longer.
6. Add Some Protein
For your main meal after your race, make sure you focus on protein to help your body recover and repair micro tears in the muscles. It’s the perfect excuse for a Sunday roast, carvery or delicious lunch like salmon or steak. Or perhaps big, veggie-packed omelette appeals. If you can’t face a larger meal, make sure your snacks are full of protein: eggs, cottage cheese, greek yoghurt, tuna, chicken or a protein shake if you really feel you need to treat your stomach gently.
7. Early To Bed
After a running race, try to get an early night to speed recovery. Wind down with a bath, massage or stretching session, take on board some more water or a herbal tea and tuck yourself up to read if you don’t feel ready to sleep straight away. Although we bet you’ll be pretty shattered after your exertions!
8. Rest And Recover
In the days to come, make sure you prioritise rest and active recovery. Don’t head straight back into running unless your race was a short distance. By all means keep active, but allow your running muscles and joints to recover: try walking or a completely different activity such as cycling or swimming. You won’t lose any fitness but you will allow your body to rest so you can return to running without injury or soreness.
9. Take Stock
Over the coming days, take a look at your race stats: your pace, your splits, how you felt and whether you met your goals or not. Without being critical or hard on yourself, use this data to work out what went right and what went wrong, and whether you need to do anything differently next time. After all, every race is a learning experience.
10. Reset Your Goals
It’s common to experience post-race blues, particularly after a major running race like a marathon. Make the mental side of recovery a priority along with the physical. Take some time out of your post-race rest time to reflect on your achievement, congratulate yourself and then reset your goals. Maybe you want to do another race, or perhaps you have another running target to hit through training?