How to Recover from a Race in Half the Time

Have you ever wanted to skip that whole tight and sour feeling you get after a race or the dreaded “next day”? Well you’re in luck! I’m here to share a few tips with you that can help reduce this feeling and get you quickly back to running shape.

  1. Get Good Nutrition– I know it may be a time for celebration after you finish your race, but it’s also one of the most important times you get good food and nutrients into your body. So you may want to skip the chocolate cake or pizza after the race and save it for a few days or a week later.After finishing a race your body is in recovery mode and therefore will be using the food and nutrients you put into it to replace lost nutrients, vitamins, etc from your endeavor. When the body doesn’t get the required vitamins and nutrients, this can lead to all sorts of problems.So my tip is to make sure you’re getting proper nutrition by taking any vitamin and supplements specific to your body’s needs, eating healthy and drinking plenty of water. Depending on how I feel, I would continue this for a least 3 to 4 days to a whole week after the race.

    Another side note on this is sleep. Make sure to get adequate rest for the days following race day. You may find you need to sleep an extra hour or more to help with recover. I’ve found that proper sleep does, in fact, speed recover and prevent injury.

  2. Stretching – Normally I’m one for not stretching. There is a lot of controversy on this subject as to whether it’s better to stretch or not to do it at all. Although, I found that when your muscles are tight or injured it does seem to help by going some light stretching of the tight areas. Additionally I’ve found when you do stretch it’s best to stretch both side of the body equality. That means even if one leg is tight, and not the other, you should still stretch both with an equal amount of force.
  3. Walk it Off– I’ve recently found this great little gem by mistake. When I finish a race I’ve noticed it’s better not to come to a complete stop after you cross the finish line. Think about this, you’ve been running for 2 to 3 hours or 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the distance your doing) and then at the end you stop all of a sudden. That’s quite a bit of shock on the body. Comparatively you could think about it as if you where to jump into a pool of ice cold water.  Granted stopping after a race is not the same effect as the ice cold water but it is a sudden change for the body at a time when you are most vulnerable – you just gave it your all on the race course.I suggest not stopping all of a sudden when you cross the finish line, instead jog a little and then slowly work your pace down to a walk. Yes, the finish line volunteers may have a fuss about this, but you have to understand this is your body, health and fitness – do what’s best for you. Additionally do understand that some volunteers (although I give them a lot of respect and thanks for what they do) they are not always runners themselves and/or sometimes don’t know anything about the sport. So just politely let them know you have to keep moving and will come back to let them remove your chip, etc.Now here is another interesting thing I discovered about this! I happened to be walking back to the car after one of my latest marathons. After I finished the race I sort of jogged a bit after the finish line and then started walking and didn’t stop. My parents came to watch me run, and they where going to drive me back home after the race. They parked their car a good ways from the finish line so I just didn’t stop and kept walking until I reach the car. It was a little rough walking, but I noticed as I continued my muscles started loosening up. Until finally I reached the car and stopped and realized my muscles where no longer tight. I felt like I had not just run a marathon!

    So my tip here is two fold. Don’t immediately stop after the finish line and do walk for a while till your muscles start to feel better after your finish.

  4. Start Running Again– Now you may think after your race that your training is complete. I mean you did the race, right? So why would you be training for it afterwards? Seems a bit backwards. Wrong! Actually your training is not complete yet. You still need to recover from the race. In fact, your recover is one of the most important parts. Without it you won’t return to your normal physical condition.What I’ve found is that if I start back into running the first or second day after the race I tend to have a much faster recover. Therefore, usually, my strategy is to do a nice walk the day after the race and then start back into running the second day. On the second day, my pace is not fast nor do I run for a long period of time relative to my pre-race training. The run and walk should be just enough to get the muscles loosened up and at the same time not over stress your body. The key here is that if you really do this right you can be back into running shape pretty fast.After one race, I did my tip #3 (Walk it Off) and was running the next day (run a few miles). Then on the second day (because of walking and running), my body felt good enough to do a small speed work out! I don’t necessary suggest that for everyone but my point here is that you will recover faster if you do get some walking and running after your race day.
  5. Plan Your Next Race – I’ve found it’s really important for your morale, which obviously is good for recovery. Think about it like this, you just complete your goal, so now what? You need another goal! So get to work on finding your next race. This will help you get motivated to do all you can for a speedy recovery.

Legal Note:

Now for the legal stuff; I am not a doctor, although I did stay in a Holiday Inn once before a race! Lol. But, truthfully I have studied to become a doctor although have not completed my training. As well I do have some great parents that are doctors, whom without I could not have achieved what I have. Even with those facts my advice should still not be taken for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The content I’ve provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult an actively licensed doctor or physician for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information please see my terms of use. Now with that said enjoy!

Sean Gallagher is a professional athlete, marathon runner. As an aspiring runner his goal is to qualifying for the 2016 Marathon Olympic Trials.