Sleep: A study by Mah et al. (2011) found that getting adequate sleep during the post-race recovery period can help to improve mood, reduce fatigue, and promote recovery in ultra-distance runners. The authors recommend getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night in the days following the race.
Nutrition: A study by Pasiakos et al. (2013) found that consuming adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fluids during the post-race recovery period can help to minimize muscle damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress, and promote muscle repair and glycogen resynthesis. The authors recommend consuming 1.2-1.7 g/kg body weight of protein, 7-10 g/kg body weight of carbohydrates, and adequate fluids in the 24 hours following the race.
Active recovery: A study by Knechtle et al. (2011) found that engaging in low-intensity exercise, such as walking or cycling, during the post-race recovery period can help to promote muscle blood flow, reduce muscle soreness, and improve recovery in ultra-distance runners. The authors recommend engaging in low-intensity exercise for 30-60 minutes per day during the first 2-3 days following the race.
Psychological support: A study by Taylor et al. (2016) found that providing psychological support, such as goal-setting and positive self-talk, can help to reduce psychological distress and improve recovery in ultra-distance runners. The authors recommend incorporating psychological support into post-race recovery strategies.
Post Race Recovery
Hello fabulous runners!
If you have finished your big event there are a few things to consider for the next wee while.
The best thing you can do is to get lots of sleep! That stuff is gold for recovery.
Make sure you’re rehydrated and putting good food in, protein for muscle repair and healthy carbs.
You might be quite hungry for the next couple of days.
Exercise wise, take a chill pill for the next week or two. Your body might look ‘normal’ but it probably did something pretty massive so be kind to it.
Easy walks, swims, or bike rides, and when you feel like running then test it out with an easy half hour. Try and keep your routine if you feel like you need to be out, or if you know that you struggle with getting back into things.
If you’re sore then give the body the space it needs to heal. Also, no NSAIDS for 24 hours post event with ‘long stuff’ so keep off them until the time is up.
When you’re back running and the half hour run feels good try an easy 45 minutes or hour. There’s no need to go straight back to a normal training volume just yet. Read my thoughts below on a ‘reverse taper’.
Mentally, there can be post event blues when you’ve done that big thing you’ve been working towards and things feel a bit flat.
Personally I usually find it’s about Wednesday when I start feeling a bit lost and going ‘what’s next?!’
Use the next few days to reflect upon your race, consider the things that went well, things that you can learn from and implement in the future, and how this event might shape your running..
Do you want more of the same?
Bigger and more glamorous?
An excuse for a jolly somewhere?
Think about the things that you like, or challenged you, and work out where next.
Speaking of next, how do you get back into training again?
The reverse taper is something I have created to try and explain recovery and how to come out of a big race.
You know how we taper going into a race, well my coaching approach is for people to do that when it comes to getting back to loading again post race.
People’s recovery is dependent on their training load and how much they have emptied the tank on race day. Also how long they spent on their feet, as well as other factors. It’s individual, so don’t just copy what Joe Bloggs down the road is doing because you need to do what is right for YOU.
People often underestimate how long it takes to recover from a big day out and say things like ‘I spent 20 hours out there but it was really slow.’
This still takes a massive toll on your body. It’s not used to doing things for that long. It was a big push, so it needs to be recognised, appreciated, and considered when it comes to getting running again.
I would rather you take time now to recover than get back into it straight away and end up needing to take weeks off due to injury.
Coming back into training after a big event treat it like a reverse taper.
If you are injured rest.
If you are tired, sleep.
If you want to move, do.
For this week and next week I like people to move gently, it could be a hike, or bike, or swim, if you want to run make it an easy 5km and if that feels good then ease back into longer runs, 45 minutes, an hour, 90 minutes. There is definitely no need for anyone to be out there this weekend busting out a half marathon distance ok?! (unless you are normally a very high volume athlete and this feels totally right for you).
Let the volume build back into your normal training load rather than go smack bang straight into it.
This is also a nice opportunity for a bit of a mental break from training too.
Have a nice bath, read a book or magazine, watch a movie, binge watch some Netflix (I can recommend plenty here), have a coffee date with your friends or loved ones.
Take life a little slower.
Take some time for you, the you that has other stuff apart from running in their life.
This is what will keep you enjoying your running for years to come.
What the studies say: