There's nothing like that feeling of crossing the finish line on race day knowing you gave it your all. Whether you had a podium finish or a personal best, you need to take a moment to sit back and congratulate yourself. Completing an iron distance event, a Spartan Beast, or a Marathon are all major accomplishments. You deserve some much needed rest, recovery, and time to wallow in your success.
The many hours of hard training leading up to a triathlon, marathon, or Spartan can take a toll on your body, and the protocol you follow for AFTER the race is just as important as BEFORE the race. So here are my top 10 tips for a healthy recovery after your race!
1. Take an entire day completely OFF. Most athletes will agree that they need to sleep in, return to eating normally, and sit in front of the TV and RELAX. You have earned this much needed day of rest. If you feel like going for a walk in the afternoon, that's great for flushing out lactic acid build up.
2. Stretch. This will also help flush out lactic acid build up, lengthen your muscles, and make you feel relaxed. Stretch to the point of tension but not pain. A restorative yoga class is a good idea in the days following your A race.
3. Foam Roll: This will help promote blood flow to sore muscles, reduce pain and soreness, and create better mobility. I recommend foam rolling the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quads and anything else that is stiff and sore. It's the next best thing to a massage, only you are doing it yourself.
4. Get in the water a few times. I read this EVERYWHERE! You want to do something low impact as your legs get some much needed rest. The water is going to sooth your sore muscles and get you moving. Don't worry about running for a few days.
5. Eat well. You want to replenish all of the nutrients you lost during your race. This will help restore muscle, replace fluids and sodium lost to sweat and respiration, and and give you much needed nutrients for muscle repair. The general rule of thumb for post workout carbohydrate intake is 1.2g per kilogram of body weight within 2 hours of finishing the race. In the 30 min to 2 hour refueling window, athletes should eat 15-20g of protein such as low fat dairy, eggs, or meat. Twelve ounces of chocolate milk can do the trick. Drinks and foods with sodium will help restore hydration levels and stimulate thirst. (Source: Ironman University)
6. Use compression boots. These will help decrease muscle soreness and speed up recovery time. Compression boots can help increase flexibility, range of motion, and increase blood flow in the muscles while reducing swelling. I don't know one athlete that doesn't want a faster recovery time and many swear by them.
7. Let those who supported you through your race or event know how much you appreciate them. Spend time with your spouse and kids this week. Go for a walk, go to the movies and have some much needed family time.
8. Plan carefully. If you have another event or race in the weeks following, be sure to give your body plenty of time to recover. This should be at least one full week of very low activity with minimal running. Be sure to ease back into your workouts well rested, pain free, and with a clear head.