In this concluding chapter, we will explore an overlooked area in most runners’ lives – the post-race recovery plan. Runners are fantastic at planning for their races, be it training, nutrition or equipment. Yet many tend to neglect recovery as an essential component of their strategy. While there is no exact formula for the post-event recovery phase, the key is to have a recovery plan BEFORE your race.
4 Phases of Recovery
Phase 1 – Crossing The Finish Line
A) Water & sports drinks are usually available at the post-race carnival. Start drinking to rehydrate. However, avoid this practice if you are feeling bloated. It might be a sign of over-drinking during the race.
B) Eat !!! Don’t get too carried away with the euphoria of achieving a personal best. Consume a meal high in carbohydrates with some protein yet low in fat. You need to replenish your energy stores.
Phase 2 – Passive Rest
A) Avoid any form of exercise for the first 96 hours. For those attempting the full marathon, you should have taken a day or of leave from work to rest at home .
B) Sleep. You might find yourself sleeping in or earlier. Its normal. You need those extra hours for recovery.
C) Feast & indulge. You paid your dues at the race. Now, take a step back & eat whatever you want.
Phase 3 – Active Rest via X-training
A) This phase can last from about 10 days for half-marathon finishers to as long as 21 days for marathon finishers.
B) Muscle soreness might still persist during this phase but it should not stop you from engaging in light cross-training.
C) You can start using heat treatment (e.g. muscle rub, hot packs etc) to help relieve muscle soreness and increase blood circulation.
D) Cross-training allows you to maintain the aerobic fitness yet not placing stress on the predominant muscles used in running. Work at an easy intensity where you are able to chat. Start with exercises from the right to the left (see diagram below).
Phase 4 – Mental Recovery
A) Looking back will hinder you from coming in to your future. Prior to restarting your training program, it is important to first clear the mental hurdle of old defeats or victories.
B) Don’t look back at old defeats that get you down. Only those who don’t attempt anything will not fail. Perhaps you failed to meet your desired timing or even had a DNF (Did Not Finish) experience. Well, expressing frustrations should be part of your recovery process. Go ahead to cry, blog or vent it to another runner but it MUST end before you resume training.
C) Don’t look back at old victories & think you have arrived. On your quest for good, don’t miss out on the best. Start looking at next year’s race calendar to have some ideas of what events you want to compete in. Re-evaluate your past year’s training program to see how you can improve upon it (Read Right Foot Out #1-3).
The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but time & chance happen to them all. The common theme brought forth from this Right Foot Out series is to always be adequately prepared in order to leverage on a good race setup for your victory. Sound training, good nutrition & sufficient recovery should form the fundamentals of a runner’s life. Start building your foundation now from the knowledge gathered thus far. Train hard; race strong.
Philip is an Exercise & Performance Scientist with Running Guild who specializes in optimizing the performance of endurance athletes. With his motto “for sports, for science, for service”, Philip left his career at a local hospital several years ago to go out & bridge the gap between science and man while constantly encouraging others to challenge beliefs and practices to seek out scientific truth.
Running Guild is an events & coaching company that focuses on boutique events. Renowned for their ultra-marathons (including Southeast Asia’s longest single-stage Craze Ultra 100 miles Challenge), Running Guild believes in delivering high-quality event experience to all their participants. Follow them on their facebook for the latest news & updates at https://www.facebook.com/RunningGuild