Runners, cyclists, and triathletes spend countless hours training and mentally preparing for race day, but from the moment they cross that finish line, it’s all about recovery. Follow these post race recovery tips to help prevent injuries, promote mental well-being, and get your body back in running shape for your next big race.
Load Up on Carbs and Protein to boost Post Race Recovery
Post-race hydration is a given, but you also need to eat a snack that is rich in carbs, protein and some fat to help refill glycogen stores within 30 to 60 minutes of finishing a race. Continue to eat plenty of protein over the next 23 hours to aid muscle repair. Runner’s World recommends going for high-carb snacks with at least 25 to 30 grams of protein. We recommend a gram of protein for every pound you weigh (1 gram for every .453 kilograms) in the first 24 hours, post race.
Resist the temptation to sit down after the race, which can lead to fainting and tissue-damaging leg cramps. Instead, walk around for 10 to 15 minutes to help with blood flow, and consider taking another walk in the afternoon following a morning race. Wearing compression clothing within the first 72 hours post-race can also promote blood flow, helping to flush toxins from the muscle tissue and to bring new nutrients to where they are most needed. Other ways to get your blood flowing include light foam rolling, a light massage, an ice bath and some gentle stretching.
Foam rolling is a low cost, highly productive way to speed recovery. Blood carries oxygen to the muscles. The more oxygen the muscles get, the less muscle soreness you are likely to feel the next day after a race.
Sleep and Rest Up
Everything from elevated levels of neurochemicals to gastrointestinal issues can make sleeping post-race a major challenge, but getting some shut-eye is also an essential part of the recovery process. When the urge comes, let yourself sleep for as long as you can, and avoid taking anti-inflammatory medications unless you’re dealing with an acute injury.
Prepare for Post-Race Blues
Many endurance athletes deal with some feelings of depression after a race due to the crash in endorphins that affects the body in the hours and days following a long race. To minimize negative feelings, spend time reflecting on how the race went and what you learned, and go over your athletic goals for the coming months. Don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate your achievement of crossing the finish line. This is an important mental component of your post race recovery!
Listen to Your Body
While the general rule says you should dedicate one day per mile of the race for post-race recovery and light training, this framework may not work for every racer, particularly triathletes. For example, an older athlete dealing with more stress in everyday life may need more recovery time than a young athlete with a low stress load. Time your recovery period based on how you feel in the days following the race. If you feel the need to rest but are itching to get moving, do some stretching or go for a walk to satisfy the urge.
A race is an exciting experience, but the exertion can put a lot of stress on your body and mind. From nutrition to beating post-race depression, these tips can help you ensure a smooth, healthy recovery so you can get up and running again in no time.