Congratulations on completing your event at the Queen City Marathon! That is a massive accomplishment. Whether this was your first or you’ve done a few, completed a 5km or the marathon, recovering from your event quickly and safely is a critical component to your training plan that runners often neglect.
"What steps should I take to recover after my race?"
As coaches, we’ve heard all the arguments from athletes wanting to jump back into training or racing immediately after their race. You may feel super motivated after a great result or wanting to redeem yourself after a poor one.
The most critical component of a post race schedule is including frequent movement that is low impact and frequently done, as this will help improve your recovery time.
Move and move often!
"Why be sore and tired any longer than necessary? Get back to feeling your powerful self!"
So let's not delay! Here are the 5 essential post race recovery strategies and plan to help get you back to feeling your best as soon as possible.
5 Essential Strategies to Recover From Your Race
Quality nutrition is essential. As soon as you feel ready to eat after the race IS the best time to start replenishing your body with quality nutrients. Research shows this is when your body and muscles are most receptive to calories and protein, which in turn leads quicker muscle recovery. As discussed in this paper, avoiding processed or refined products and include quality foods and with good sources of fat and protein will greatly enhance your health and recovery. Healthy fat helps hormone synthesis, and protein is what provides the building blocks for cells, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Include a simple electrolyte drink like water, wedge of lemon, and a pinch of salt in your post-race hydration to help replenish the electrolytes lost during the race. See our previous nutrition tips here.
Avoid structured run training immediately after the event and consider light cross-training instead. For example, immediately post race take 3-4 days off but keep frequent movement part of your daily routine! The less movement your legs partake in, the “stiffer” they will feel. This feeling of stiffness is typically from the metabolic waste left over from the race and movement will help remove this waste and decrease those heavy legs as quickly as possible. Great recovery supporting movements like walking, or non-impact cardio like walking, elliptical, cycling, and swimming are good options. Move throughout your day - short 30 second to 5 minute movement snacks are a great way to speed recovery. The increased blood flow to the muscles will help expedite recovery and tissue repair.
Massage and stretching. After the initial few days of soreness has subsided, a light massage helps to increase blood flow to the muscles, which helps provide oxygen to the tissue and thus speed recovery and allow you to start moving more smoothly. Some light stretching will also help to release some of the tightness. The important concept here is keep it light. Nothing too deep or too intense. If you can not get a massage, a foam roller or a massage stick are other good options. Even as little as 10-15 minutes of self massage per day can really help your long term recovery. Whatever option you choose, if you cannot breathe normally during the treatment because of the amount of pressure being applied and the pain you feel, you’re going too deep!
Quality sleep. You just put your body through a hard and long event, and most likely did not sleep well the night before the race, thus leading to a depressed immune system. Make sure to give your body adequate sleep in the days that follow, which is an easy way to help recover and reset your immune system. Check out our Sleep Fix Article to learn a great strategy to improve the quality of your sleep.
Gradual reintroduction of run training. After a few days of light non-impact, low effort cross-training as mentioned above, and if most soreness is gone, you may start running again as per the suggestions in the schedule below. If soreness is still lingering continue cross training until it has subsided.
Here is a suggested post event training plan to help you get back to running safely:
4 - 7 days post-race - after a 5 minute brisk walk, start by adding low intensity 20-30 min runs at easy effort each day. Easy effort means EASY! This means you should be able to breathe comfortably and carry on a conversation while running. For example, you might run day 4, cross train on day 5, and run day 6 and 7.
7 - 14 days race - If you are able to complete the runs suggested above without any soreness or pain you can start adding a little more distance to each run. In your second week post race you can add another day per week of running. For example, if you ran 3 days in the first week you can increase that to 4 in the second. These runs can increase to 40-60 minutes, again keeping the effort easy.
14 - 21 days post-race: Keep the volume (time/distance) of running the same as the previous week. If you are feeling good with no pain or soreness, you can begin to add in 3-4 x 20 second strides after each run. Make sure you are fully recovered after each stride (breathing back to normal) before completing the next one.
NOTE: If you are feeling any unusual pain, excessive stiffness, and or swelling after the first week post marathon see a health-care professional like a physiotherapist to get evaluated. Never ignore something that does not feel right and hope that it will go away.
Hope is never a strategy, get your body looked after so you can get back at it. If it does not feel right, it is not right. Get checked out!
Now you may be thinking 3 weeks seems like a long time to resume your normal run training. However, this is a common length of time to recover fully from the race, be ready to jump back into your regular training routine, and start planning your next racing journey.
Be patient and your next PB will be a reward!
Do you feel like you need time off or maybe you want it?
Sure, it’s understandable if this was the race you were gearing up for this year, and now your plan is to take some well deserved time off running. Well the best way to do this is to follow our post race advice and then in week two of the suggested schedule above feel free to take it off running completely and mentally refresh. Take two weeks if you really feel you need it. But don’t go longer than that because you’ll start to undo all that hard work you did for the race. Remember, movement will help your recovery, but by no means does that have to be running (see cross training examples above). So after 1-2 weeks off you’ll want to gradually re-introduce your running. Make sure you do some foam rolling and mobility work prior to your run and start easy.
Looking for help to achieve your best performance?
Patrick Ash and Jen Ruland are coaches with Regina-based coaching company Endurance Journey Coaching. They provide one to one coaching and group training to help you improve your performance here. Our fall group training sessions start Sept 11th so see how we can help you here under the Group Training tab!
D I S C L A IME R
Acknowledge that participating in an exercise program, training for and/or participating in run training, racing, or any other endurance sporting event is an extreme test of your physical and mental limits and that training for and/or participating in such programs/events poses potential risks of serious bodily injury, death, or property damage. Please note that Endurance Journey Coaching, Patrick Ash Coaching Inc., Patrick Ash, Jennifer Ruland, their partners, affiliates, or employees are NOT RESPONSIBLE in any manner whatsoever for any injury or harm that may result from acting on, implementing, and completing the suggested strategies, techniques, and training described within. Since the physical activities described herein may be too strenuous in nature for some individuals to engage in safely, it is recommended that a medical professional be consulted and medical clearance to follow the suggestions herein be provided prior to participation. This document is not designed to be a substitute or replace the medical advice provided by your health professional.
If people you know wish to learn more about these strategies in the article above please refer them to www.endurancejourney.com OR email us at email@example.com for more information.
Thank you and enjoy the journey!
Patrick and Jen