10 Race to Recovery Tips

You’ve trained long and hard for your event, gone “balls to the wall” as you ran it, and crossed the finish line with great joy. (And maybe just a few tears.) So, now what? If you’re anything like me, my brain doesn’t always function at 100% post-race. So, I’ll take the guesswork out for you with these 10 race to recovery tips. No thinking required!

  1. Perhaps the single most important thing you can do post-race is to replenish the nutrients your body used to fuel you through the race. Your body will best absorb nutrients within approximately 20 minutes post-race, so grab your medal and find the food. (In some cases, you may need to miss your friend crossing the finish line. Such is life.)
  2. You don’t like it, but you need to do it. Get a foam roller, a tennis ball, and a strap and go to town. You’ll want to hit your major muscles (you know, your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, quads). Even if you only have 5 minutes to spend, it will be worth it. Trust me.
  3. There’s a reason why kids love baths. Because they are awesome! While you may not be splashing around pretending to be a mermaid, you can make your bath athlete appropriate by adding some Epson salts. The magnesium sulfate helps alleviate sore muscles, while the warm water soothes the soul.
  4. If you can afford it, a massage is a great tool for releasing stuck muscles and alleviating soreness because it increases your body’s circulation. In many cases, races will have free massage tables for finishers. (If so, sign up early as slots fill up fast.) Deep massage might be too much immediately post-race, but a light massage will help loosen your muscles.
  5. Feet up. You asked a lot of your feet during the race. So treat them nicely now. Maybe prop them up on some pillows, or even better, raise your feet higher than your head to let the blood flow with gravity.
  6. Feeling low after the race? It’s likely due to the decrease in endorphins your body is experiences post-race. This is normal, and can be a good opportunity for you to reflect on the experience, see if there’s anything you should have changed, or races you’re looking forward to doing in the future. (Note: I am not a medical expert. Please talk with your doctor about any emotional or physical reactions you have post-race.)
  7. Get those endorphins up again by moving around. I’m not talking about going out and running miles and miles the day after a race. But moving the body through walking can help flush out many of the toxins that built up while you were running. (Some runners call this a “flush run.”)
  8. Did you have sweat stains on your shirt? Did your face glisten as you crossed the finish line? Long runs can severely dehydrate you, and it’s important to replenish the electrolytes lost during the race. So drink up; responsibly. (The jury is conflicted when it comes to beer post-race. Some maintain that the alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to rehydrate, while others say that the beer’s carbs and ascorbic acid actually make it a better choice than water. You decide.)
  9. There are many lotions that have pain relief built into them. I like the arnica cream, which is a homeopathic cream that purportedly decreases muscle pain. (Note: I am not a scientist; this is my personal opinion.) Even if the cream only induces a placebo affect; I’ll take it!
  10. You finished your race. You did it! Make sure to take the time to pat yourself on the bat. You’ve earned it!

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