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Post-race recovery

Updated: Jan 7

You've finished your goal race, now it's time to recover! Post-race recovery looks different for everyone. It is dependent on the race distance you completed, your fitness, health, how hard of an effort you gave, etc. We will go over some guidelines for post-race recovery and hopefully put some myths to rest.

How much time off from running?

This answer depends heavily on race distance, effort, and your fitness level. I've heard a ton of different recommendations, some being, a day off for every hour you raced, a day off for every mile your raced, don't stop running at all, etc. Below are some minimum recommendations I find most reasonable:

5K: 1-2 days

10K: 2-3 days

Half marathon: 5-7 days

Marathon: 2 weeks

Again, this is all largely based on your fitness level and effort. Did you all out race or did you take it easy during the race? Both are perfectly fine but it is like comparing apples and oranges. If you treated your half marathon like an easy training run then a week off from running is probably not necessary.

An individual's fitness comes into play as well. An elite athlete is going to have different recovery requirements and will probably return to running sooner than recreational runners. Many people do easy recovery runs a day or two after they complete a marathon. If that is where your fitness level is at, then this is perfectly fine. However, if you are a newer runner or newer to higher mileage then definitely give yourself longer recovery time.

A week or two after a longer distance race might sound like a lot of time off but this does not mean that you are parked on the couch watching Netflix and binge eating. It is important to continue to move and be active as part of your post-race recovery. Cross training is highly recommended during this time. Go for a swim, bike ride or walk to keep your body moving. Do some yoga to stretch out and give some love back to your muscles. After you give your body some post-race recovery time, dive into an off-season base-building program. This will ease you back into running without race specific training.

Post race nutrition

Your post-nutrition should contain a combination of carbohydrates and protein. The carbohydrates will help replenish your depleted glycogen stores and the protein will help with muscle repair. Many athletes believe the myth that they will gain weight when they stop running and often neglect post-race nutrition. This is not true! Chances are you will probably lose weight during the off-season because the hunger you experienced during your demanding training is going to subside. Focus on balanced meals of carbohydrates, protein, and fruits/vegetables to give your body the nutrition it needs to repair itself.

Recovery methods to try

Immediately following a race you can try compression socks to aid in circulation. This will help bring blood to the recovering muscles and decrease swelling. Many athletes feel compression socks aid in the recovery process. A bath with epsom salt is also a good recovery tool immediately after a race. Epsom salt contains magnesium and sulfate which help relax muscles and reduce inflammation. Another option is to go for a sports or deep tissue massage. While these can be uncomfortable depending on how tight you are, massage is a great way to relax the muscle and work out any tension that was created from your hard effort.

What comes next?

After your post-race recovery period it is time to get back into it. Now is a great time to jump into an off-season base-building program. Your focus should be building mileage back at an easy conversational pace. During the off-season there should be no race specific workouts. Focus on easy miles but don't shy away from some speed sessions or hills.

Post-race recovery is an important time to give your body the rest that it needs after a hard race effort. You have just trained for your goal race for months and now it's time to give your body some time off. Remember, the amount of time off from running depends on the race distance, effort, your fitness level and your health. Post-race recovery does not mean you need to be inactive. It is important to keep moving and cross training is highly encouraged. No matter how much time you choose to take off from running, the key is to slowly ease back into running.

Are you interested in a base-building plan for the off-season? Hit Your Pace offers different training plans based on your goals, as well as 1:1 coaching. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more running tips and motivation!

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