You’ve just punished your body for a number of kilometers. Hopefully you made it over the finish line without any assistance, but undoubtedly your body will be suffering nonetheless.
Recovery actually begins before you’ve finished the race, by preparing your body with the right foods and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration; and by training ahead of the event to ensure your body is ready for the trials of a long-distance run.
But no matter how prepared you have been, your body will be showing signs of strain. Your muscles will be tired and achy, and you may feel tired in general as your energy stores are depleted. But if you follow these six tips for a speedy race recovery, you should be back on top form in no time.
1. Refuel with quality foods
How many calories you burn during your race will depend on how fast you run and your weight among other factors. But as an example, someone who runs a 10k in an hour and weighs 11 stone will burn around 700 calories during the race.
So it’s no surprise that your body will need to top up on energy. But what you eat plays an important part in recovery too. Proteins will help to repair small tears that occur in your muscles when you push them to their limit and complex carbohydrates will give you the energy your body needs to repair.
Eat meals that include a good mix of both for the first few days after your race. Some examples include poached eggs on wholegrain bread; greek yoghurt with granola and mixed berries, or a natural yoghurt-based smoothie with banana.
2. Keep moving
While you run, lactic acid will start to build up in your muscles. This can lead to a burning sensation that can last for days. It’s your body’s way of preventing you from over-exerting and to force you into a recovery period.
While reducing the amount and intensity of exercise you do is a good idea after a long-distance race, putting your feet up for days will actually have a detrimental effect.
Prevent your muscles from seizing up and keep the endorphins circulating around your body by doing gentle runs or cycles in the days after your race. Make sure you also complete an appropriate cool down once you have passed the finish line.
3. Have a nice long soak
If your muscles are really achy, you can ease the pain by soaking in a hot bath. The warm water will improve blood flow to your sore limbs and soothe the muscles.
4. Get some extra sleep
The following few days after your race you’ll feel more tired than usual. So listen to your body and go to bed an hour earlier than usual. Recovery is the reason we need to sleep every night. Sleep helps us to recover from our efforts and recharge, so we often need more sleep if we’ve done more strenuous exercise.
5. Use a foam roller or get a massage
Once you finish your run, you might want to use a foam roller, which will help to release muscle tension and improve the circulation making stretching easier.
If you don’t have a foam roller, or if you prefer, a sports massage will also help to improve your circulation and get rid of the build-up of pain-causing lactic acid.
Last updated Wednesday 10 February 2016
First published on Friday 15 January 2016