You’ve put in the work before a race. Don’t let the care you’ve taken for your body stop after you’ve completed your goal.
There are several recommendations for post-race recovery. Here are some common ones:
1) Plan on walking for 10-15 minutes following the completion of your race, and then stretching for the same amount of time following that.
2) Water is recognized as the best re-hydrator. Having a sports drink can help, just try not to rely on them solely.
3) Avoid alcohol – even if you are celebrating an accomplishment! According to Runner’s World, “A 2014 study in the journal PLOS ONE found that alcohol prevents muscles from synthesizing protein after a workout – keeping them from repairing torn muscle fibers.”
4) As early as 30 minutes following the race, plan on eating a well-balanced snack or meal, depending on the time of day.
a. Recommendations are to eat equal parts protein and complex carbohydrates, and include good fats
b. Avoid over-eating, as you may feel you’ve burned more calories than you actually did
c. Avoid high-sugar or high-caffeine snacks that could leave you searching for more calories soon after
d. Examples of foods that help muscle recovery are cottage cheese, sweet potatoes, watermelon, salmon, eggs, spinach, bananas, berries, whole grains, beans, and turmeric.
5) Massage may be a beneficial way to help recover, with effects including improved circulation, relaxed/lengthened tight muscles, relieving pain or cramps, and overall quicker recovery.
As a general rule, it is recommended that runners rest for 1 day for each mile raced, though some sources say that extremely light jogging the day following can aid in flushing lactic acid from the legs. Re-introduction to running should be completed in an interval format, where walking and running are interspersed. Recommendations are to choose a difficulty level that allows for running without feeling like you are straining.
It is recommended to wait approximately 2-3 weeks before participating in another race to give your body time to recover.