In sports, race recovery is defined as the time required for an athlete to regain the form in order to repeat a similar effort. Event distance, running intensity, weather conditions, level of fitness and age will all factor into how long it will take for each runner to properly recover. Here are a few considerations for optimizing your post race recuperation.
1. Eat and Drink
Carbohydrates, protein, fluid and electrolytes are all required for refilling energy stores in the body, facilitating muscle recovery and rehydration. Eating within an hour after a long, hard exercise session will provide a foundation for a good recovery. This year’s Pancake Breakfast will provide an excellent opportunity to refuel.
2. Ice What Ails You
If any muscle, tendon or joint was strained during the run, applying ice as soon as possible will help with pain control and minimizing inflammation. Ice bags are available at the Medical Tent for quick application. At home, ice buckets, bags of frozen peas and good old crushed ice in a freezer bag are good first aid tools. Ice for 10-20 minutes and repeat hourly as needed. Icing is most helpful in the first 72 hours post injury.
3. Massage Therapy
Therapeutic massage within the first few days post race can help flush out metabolic waste products in the muscle and minimize adhesions that can lead to stiffness. Massage enhances blood flow which is critical for soft tissue recovery. Massage immediately following a race should be kept fairly light as opposed to utilizing deep tissue techniques.
4. Active Recovery
Although doing a lot of nothing may be enticing after a rewarding race performance, light, low impact exercise over the following week will be more beneficial for recovery. Activities such as cycling, yoga and stretching will keep the joints and muscle mobile and assist in good blood circulation for soft tissue healing. Getting in the pool for an easy swim session several hours post race or the following day can aid in decreasing inflammation, reducing blood lactate and improving mood.
Sleep is when our body truly recuperates. Lack of sleep is associated with poor restorative processes and reduced immune function. Over the following days after the race make an effort to get a quality night’s sleep of up to eight or nine hours.
You have followed a training plan to get to the race. Now have a recovery plan to get you to the next one!
(Originally published in the Calgary Marathon Race Guide 2012)