You’ve probably spent weeks or even months training for the race, but it seems there isn’t a lot of advice for what you should do after it’s over. Recovery is a topic that most runners don’t even think about until after they’ve crossed the finish line, but it may be just as important as all that time you spent training.
Immediately after the race
After the race is over, keep walking around for at least 10 to 15 minutes to keep the blood flowing, and then spend about the same amount of time stretching. If you stop too soon and sit down, it can cause leg cramps or fainting.
Resting in the days following the race
The general rule is one day of recovery for each mile of rest, but that doesn’t mean absolutely no running or other exercise. It does mean taking a break from intense training like especially long runs or speed work. Your rest days can include a shorter, slower-paced run or cross-training activities like swimming or cycling at a fairly easy intensity level. Do take a complete day off following the race to rest and recover, and sleep in if you’re able.
For example, following a 10K, you’d take the next day off followed by five easy intensity days. If you’re feeling unusually fatigued or sore, allow yourself two days of complete rest followed by five easy days. It’s important to listen to your body, and if you think you need extra days off or more easy days, take them.
Eating for recovery
By eating and drinking properly, you can help speed your recovery. As the effects of dehydration and muscle glycogen depletion can be cumulative, inadequate refueling can hasten recovery and even damage muscles. Be sure and drink plenty of water, ideally 16 to 24 ounces of fluid within the first hour. Eat healthy foods that are packed with carbs as soon as you can after the race, such as yogurt with fresh fruit, an energy bar, or a bagel with almond butter. The general rule according to numerous studies is around one gram of carbs per every pound of body weight and about one gram of protein per four grams of carbohydrates.
After finally accomplishing your goal after weeks or months of training, it’s natural to experience a bit of a letdown. The dip in endorphins that occur after you complete the race can also contribute to feeling a bit depressed. By taking time to reflect on the positives of what you’ve just achieved, as well as celebrating your remarkable accomplishment – no matter how long it took you to finish, it can help to ease these feelings and help you to get back on your feet quicker too.