Post Race Recovery
Brian Bennett RMT, ART, CKTP
Ironman Triathlete, & Marathon Runner.
Could you believe, how you recover from a race can be almost as important as how you prepare for it!
So you have been preparing for this day for weeks and possibly months, the race is great! Now what?
Now we recover, is there a right way and a wrong way? How can I get ready for my next race in a few weeks?.
Follow these guide lines and I can help tilt the scales in you favor.
Prior to the race, plan for what you will do when you are finished, check-in a bag that will hold warm clothes and food or drinks, also some spare change and you cell phone, this will help you get back home quicker, and in more comfort.
AFTER THE RACE
COOL DOWN - Once you have crossed the finish line don’t stop, keep moving, let your heart rate slowly return to normal levels, this will aid in circulation, preventing cramping by bringing nutrients and oxygenated blood to needy tissue. If the weather is cold put on warm dry clothes soon, it is easy to get a cold with you immune system impeded.
DRINK - Dehydration is a key after racing, you body may be very dehydrated due to insufficient drinking on course, combine this with the effects of heat, wind, excretion and your body may be ready to drop, fluids/electrolytes are needed by the body for proper nerve impulse firing and body cooling.
Ingest at least 2 cups of electrolyte mix with in the first 10 min post race, this varies with race conditions, in extreme heat you should easily double this amount
EAT- Refueling contributes to your recovery by aiding cellular repair and replacing important energy stores, with in the first 15min post event is crucial for abortion, the body is super receptive for loading a quality fuel. 10 to 20 grams of protein would be ideal, this can be through a dry or liquid source, a protein drink is a great choice as it assists in fluid recovery,
STRETCH - Progress through your sport specific muscles as you cool down by slowly and carefully doing some light stretches, calves, shins, quads, hams, glutes, etc. pay attention to your body and avoid cramping.
MASSAGE - some races have massage therapists on site free or a small charge, now is a great time for a little flush of the legs, not to deep just think of it as getting the lactic acid moving, 10 to 15 min is all that’s needed, don’t forget to book a massage for later in the week.
REST - Sit down with you feet up, take a nap, you deserved it. Now is not the time for a walking tour of the city.
ICE/HEAT - Your muscles are swollen and inflamed, lactic acid and other metabolites are pooled in the tissue slowing down your recovery, to help with this try filling the tub with cold water add some ice cubes, and submerge your legs for 5 to 10 minutes or more, (watch for frost bite & hypothermia).
A hot bath with Epsom salts can also increase circulation and draw out lactic acid from the interstitial tissue in muscle, and also help warm you up if still cold from racing in bad conditions.
COMPRESSION - The newest fad on the market are compression socks/garments, these items are often worn to help the body recover pre/post race by increasing circulation to the muscles, these can be pricey approx $30 to $60 a pair
ELEVATION - Get your feet up! Nothing beats gravity for trying to draw blood back to the core of the body and decrease inflammation of the muscles and joints.
EAT AGAIN - 4 things need to be kept in mind, glycogen stores, anti oxidants, protein, & PH balance.
Have a complex or high GI carbohydrate to replenish muscle glycogen stores, this can be some thing like some left over pasta. Protein is needed to help the body rebuild damaged muscle, a low fat protein like tuna or chicken can be added to that pasta. (Aim for .50 gr per pound of body weight over the next day or two). Anti oxidants help the body fight free radicals the damage tissue, vitamin A & C are great examples, one of the best sources of anti oxidants are dates, pop a couple of these as a snack.
Avoid beans, wheat, grains, soy and peanuts as these may slow or block the absorption of protein in the body.
ACTIVE RECOVERY - Now is not the time for another hard run, avoid heavy training, it’s been said that your body needs aprox a day per mile of racing to recover properly, a 5k takes 3 days, a 1/2 marathon takes 13 days, a marathon takes 27 days.
STRETCH - After a hard work out or race the muscles in your legs have small micro tearing in them, this will heal over the next few days, but may not heal ideally to help with this light stretching can help with realigning scar tissue and adhesion as seen with massage, and insure proper range of motion.
Try doing some light Active Isolated stretching which uses more movement than static held stretches, this may reduce possibility of injury
TWO DAYS LATER
SPORTS MASSAGE - A good post race massage within 2 days after the event can help to increase circulation, flushing out lactic acid and other metabolites, and bring nutrients to the damaged tissue helping it to regenerate and decrease delayed onset muscle soreness. Massage also helps break down adhesions and scar tissue which is beginning to form and realigns adhesions with muscle tissue.
MENTAL REVIEW - Review your race, your performance, where your goals achieved?, is there anything to change or do differently?. The next step is to review your short term goals, what are the next races on you schedule, refocus on these
WEEK ONE & TWO
Follow the same ideas stated above, work on quality recovery including hydrotherapy (heat and cold), get lots of sleep, stretch often, include a mix of cross training (deep water running/cycling/swimming), ease back into light runs with decreased intensity & duration using soft surfaces, eat well (think nutritious food), take care of nagging injuries with massage /physio, and most important listen to your body, it will let you know what you can and can’t do .