Congratulations, you did it! After months of hard training you crossed the finish line and now is the time to enjoy your well-earned achievement. This week is also the time to help your body recover and repair. Recovering in the right way can help you avoid cramps, dehydration and possible injury in the days and weeks after the race. Here we share four tips for a quicker recovery through light training, stretching, hydration and nutrition.
Day 1 post-race, have a lie in, put your feet up and relax. You need to rest initially to kickstart the recovery process and to recharge mentally. Between days 2-5 is a good time to resume your exercise routine but avoid heavy training. If you want to return to running, we recommend you also include some cross training, such as swimming, into your first few sessions. Your aim should be to do gentle workouts that encourage blood flow to the muscles. For the first week keep your running mileage low. The emphasis should be primarily on recovery. Go for short, low-intensity runs or walks that will help your muscles repair quicker.
After a long run, you need to stretch your muscles. Stretching your calves, quads and hamstrings will help avoid cramping in the days following the race and speed up your recovery. Also, remember to stretch your back, shoulders and neck too. We recommend doing soft stretches that aren’t too strenuous. If you have a foam roller, use it on the pressure points in your aching muscles. Also, yoga and pilates exercises are particularly good for relieving post-race pains. These can help you target sore spots and tightness, releasing compression in the joints.
Your body needs adequate hydration to aid recovery in the days after a race. Hydration is required to replenish glycogen in your body and help your muscles recover. Runners can start to suffer from the effects of dehydration within hours after a race if they fail to drink enough fluids. The fluid lost must be replaced which is why we recommended sticking to plenty of non-alcoholic drinks during this recovery phase. Isotonic drinks are particularly beneficial as they contain similar concentration levels of salts and sugar as the human body. The general recommendations are to drink two to three litres of fluids a day and if you are exercising try to drink one litre for every 1,000kcal you burn.
While you may feel like indulging in pizza and ice-cream after completing a challenging race your muscles will thank you if you choose more nutrient rich foods during the recovery phase. Moderate amounts of protein are needed to help repair your muscles. Good sources of protein include fish, chicken, tofu, milk, dairy products, nuts and seeds. Our recommendation is to eat a balanced diet over the week, ensuring you have plenty of lean protein (fish, chicken), carbohydrates (rice, pasta, potatoes) and good fats (avocados, salmon). Try to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day to ensure adequate intake of vitamins and minerals. Also try to limit the amount of high fat foods (chocolate, cakes, biscuits) for quicker muscle repair.