You train for months, logging countless miles in preparation for race day. But what happens after you cross the finish line?
Having a post-race recovery plan in place is essential to help prevent injuries, and it can also improve performance in future races. Here are a few key strategies that every runner should follow when making a post-race recovery plan.
On hot and humid days, there’s a greater awareness of staying hydrated. But dehydration after a race can happen just as easily on a cool, mild day.
Regardless of the weather, grab that water bottle as you cross the finish line and drink up. If your race took longer than an hour, you may want to consider adding a post-race sports drink to help replenish sodium levels. Sports drinks also contain carbohydrates, which provide the added benefit of helping with muscle recovery.
Cool down and stretch
While you may be tempted to collapse on the ground after crossing that finish line, resist the urge. What your body actually needs is a proper cool down.
After completing the race, keep moving at an easy jog until your heart rates slows. This will help flush out the lactic acid in your muscles. Before you head back to the car, take some time to stretch out key areas like your calves and hamstrings. Post-race stretching can relieve tight muscles and reduce muscle fatigue.
Food may not be the first thing on your mind after completing a race, but a post-race snack will help to speed your recovery.
Choosing foods that are high in protein and carbohydrates will help your body rebuild muscle and replenish its reserve of essential nutrients. Before leaving home, pack some healthy snacks like bananas, Greek yogurt and dried fruit that you can easily grab and eat after the race.
Some races will provide you with snacks, too. Just remember to read the nutrition label to determine if the provided snack is a strong source of nutrients.
Plan nutritious meals
Many runners dream of their celebratory post-race meal before they even hit the finish line. While there is nothing wrong with indulging in a juicy cheeseburger and fries after weeks or months of training, be sure to plan nutritious meals after the celebration is over.
Your post-race meals should be packed with protein and carbohydrates, which help your body recover and repair the micro tears in muscles that cause soreness.
Rest and recover
Your body will likely be exhausted after a hard race. Rather than spending the night celebrating your personal best, plan to spend a quiet evening with a warm bath and a good night’s sleep.
In the days to come, pay attention to your body. If your muscles are sore, try yoga, swimming or cycling for a day or two. Stay active but give your muscles a few days to recover before you begin training for the next race.
We hope you keep these tips in mind – especially those currently preparing for the Toledo Glass City Marathon on Sunday, April 25. From the relay to 5k to full marathon, there is something for everyone in this race. If you’ve been training but have yet to sign up, there is still time to register.
Sore muscles and mild discomfort are common after intense exercise, even with a post-race recovery plan. However, if you experience significant pain that makes running or everyday activities difficult, it may be time to contact your primary care provider.