The 2021 fall race season has been a blur of training, excitement, nerves, and lots of cheers. We’re getting toward the end, but there are still races left to run before winter sets in (looking at you, upcoming Turkey Trots). Now is a good time to talk about post-race recovery.
Whether you’ve run your first 5k, Ironman or your fifth marathon, what you do after a race is just as important as the training miles leading up to it. Post-race recovery is about resting, refueling, and taking the steps your body needs so you can get back up and running without risking injury.
Even when you’re feeling ready for it, racing is tough—both physically and mentally. While exact recovery will vary depending on the mileage and intensity of your race, there are a few general tips you should follow to make sure you rebuild safely. Here, we share some advice for starting the process right after you cross the finish line:
Don’t stop moving.
It can be sorely tempting to cross the finish line and immediately sit down, but experts caution against this as it can cause leg cramps or fainting, not to mention stiffness later on. Keep your blood moving with a short 10-15 minute walk, or brief recovery jog, after the race. Use the restroom, meet some other runners, and enjoy the atmosphere. The time will pass quickly, and your future self will be grateful!
After a cool-down walk or jog, make sure you take time to stretch. A short, gentle stretch can also aid blood flow and help your legs feel better after a tough effort.
Refuel and rehydrate.
Nutrition and hydration are essential to effective recovery. No matter how long your race, you should seek out a snack that includes carbohydrates, protein, and some healthy fats within an hour of finishing a race. If your stomach isn’t up for food right after you finish—marathoners, for example, don’t always want to eat after a race—a sports drink can start bringing electrolytes and sugar back into your system.
Your body will likely lose a lot of water during the race, especially if it’s a longer run or a hot day. In addition to carrying water and nutrition during the race, you should also grab water after. If you’ve sweat a lot, consider adding electrolytes to your drink to replenish the minerals lost.
The longer the distance run, the more time your body will need to recover. If you quickly resume training right after a long race, you could risk injury and potentially jeopardize your future running. Take a few days off to relax, stretch, foam roll, or do some yoga. While you want to press ‘pause’ on running, you shouldn’t be entirely sedentary. Low-impact activities like biking, walking, and swimming can help boost blood flow and aid the recovery process.
And finally, remember to celebrate! You put a ton of hard work into prepping for this race, and if it was postponed from 2020, you waited a long time to run it. No matter what your time was, you should enjoy the feeling of crossing the finish line. CONGRATULATIONS!