A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Recovery after a race

on September 24, 2013
Even after my 10K this weekend, which is not a huge race, I made some conscious choices about what to do after the race to help minimize my post-race soreness and maximize my recovery. I also practiced the things that are going to help for the Princess Half Marathon (PHM), where we plan on spending the day at Epcot after the race! Most of the post-race advice I’ve seen is very consistent on the key components:

1) Don’t stop moving! Walk around, stretch gently, even dance in celebration but keep moving to help keep your blood flowing and move all of those metabolic by-products out of your muscles after they’ve just worked so hard for you! Things that move your muscles in different and gentler ways than the running you just did for miles and miles are best but whatever you do, avoid extended sitting!

– Post-10K, we went home so I could shower and then we headed out for brunch. Then we spent the rest of the day at a local theme park/pumpkin patch and ultimately logged another 6000 steps on the FitBit before I was done for the day. My legs felt tired and my IT band was a little tight (better after some rolling), but I wasn’t really sore. Anytime I sat down, however, it was really hard to get myself back up. Staying in motion is going to be key post PHM!

Watching the talking dragon at the pumpkin patch

Watching the talking dragon at the pumpkin patch

2) Eat! So many of us run just so we can eat more right? Isn’t it nice to know that this is such an important recommendation post-race! Most sources recommend eating a mix of easily digested carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes post-race to start replacing your glycogen and continuing to eat frequently throughout the day, with an emphasis on easily digestible carbohydrates.

– For me, I had a bag of grapes and half a cheese stick (intended to have a whole one, but there was no way O was letting me open a cheese stick in front of him without him eating it – I’m lucky I got half!) as soon as I finished. I had those waiting with my husband. We then went out for brunch, where I had some fruit, an omelet, salad & chicken. I was weirdly not hungry the rest of the day, but I made myself eat a good dinner and post-dinner snack. Monday, the day after the race, I was starving all day! At the PHM, we’ve booked the Race Retreat / Platinum ChEAR package (mostly because we’ll be doing this with a two year old and the added entertainment for him while waiting is worth it) so I’ll have breakfast available as soon as I’m done. We’re also planning on using Amazon and/or Garden Grocer to have some of our favorite snacks delivered to the resort, so I can always have something healthy and that I know my stomach can handle. Of course, we’re planning on spending that day in Epcot and I am looking forward to snacking my way around the World Showcase! Even better, if the pattern holds true and I am again starving the day after the race, we have Be Our Guest booked for Monday night post-race! Plus a day at Walt Disney World, complete with Dole Whip. Can’t wait!

Darrell & Me at EPCOT Ball

3) Hydrate! Hydration isn’t just important during the race – it’s important to drink in the days before the race and to immediately start replenishing fluids and electrolytes post race too.

– Post-10K, I felt thirsty all day after the race was over! I drank a 20 oz bottle of water with Nuun electrolytes as soon as the run was over (had to fight O to get to drink it – he loves water from bottles because he feels like such a big boy!) plus a big jug of water with more Nuun in the car on the way home. I felt like I was downing water all day and still felt thirsty into Monday. We’ll plan on a big bottled water budget for this vacation for sure! I like the Nuun tablets, personally, because they have electrolytes without the sugar. I’d rather eat my calories anyway and the Powerade/Gatorade type drinks tend to make me queasy since I so rarely drink anything with real sugar.

4) Warm, dry clothes! You want to change out of your sweaty clothes as soon as you can because a) you’ll get chilly and b) things like chafing/acne/skin irritation are more likely the longer you hang out in wet duds. Apparently lots of shivering and goose bumps are common post race, so having a sweater handy is nice.

– I’m planning to have that with my husband again post-PHM rather than checking a bag, just like I did for the 10K. I certainly appreciated having the hoodie post-10K, but that may have been because it was a chilly Omaha morning.

5) Rest! This part is really hard and something that many training plans explicitly address, as far as when your next workout should be. A rule of thumb I’ve seen several places is to avoid hard workouts or races for several days post-race, up to 1 day per mile. That doesn’t mean you can’t run at all, but you should plan to keep workouts light and almost mirror your taper plan, in terms of gradually ramping intensity back up just like you eased it down pre-race. In the first couple of days, most experts advise avoiding any kind of running or cross-training because your post-race endorphins could be masking aches and pains that indicate injury or other concerns.

– With the Galloway plan, there are specific workouts and days assigned for the week post-PHM and I plan on honoring those. Post-10K, I already felt like working out again the next day but gave myself the day off I’d promised myself and went back to normal workouts on Tuesday.

6) Massage? Most of my reading suggests only a light, brief massage immediately after the race to avoid increasing inflammation and saving anything more for 24-48 hours post-race.

– I’ve booked a 50 minute Swedish massage for the Monday morning after the Princess Half Marathon. I’ll be sure to let you know how that works out for me! Stretching and foam rolling in the evening after my morning 10K certainly seemed to help my soreness quite a bit, so I’m hopeful that the massage will feel good post-PHM and not painful.

7) Reflect, Celebrate and Keep an eye out for post-race slumps! A little mood slump and depression after any big event can be very common. You see it after weddings, after graduations, after vacations and after big accomplishments like a marathon/half-marathon. I think it is human nature in many ways – we love having something to look forward to and gear up for and thus we get a little lost when that goal goes away. Some things that help with that can include taking the time to reflect on your experience, in your own mind or outwardly, such as writing about it or scrapbooking. Be sure to really give yourself credit for all of the work you did, regardless of the outcome! Celebrate your accomplishments, big and small, and give yourself mental high-fives when you feel things starting to slip. Think about what your next goals are, whether or not they are fitness related. I’m sure RunDisney would love for us all to cure the post-race blues by immediately signing up for a new race.

– I think blogging about the experience and deciding what my new goal is post-race will help. I know I am definitely a goal oriented person and will need a new one, like I needed the goal of the half-marathon after reaching my weight loss goal! I’m not sure if being on vacation with a two-year old is going to help or worsen those post-race blues! I guess we’ll find out.

Do you have any post-race rituals or tips that have worked for you? This will definitely be by biggest ever physical endeavor (exceeded only by giving birth, I’d guess) so I’m not sure what I’ll feel like or what will work for me, but I look forward to finding out. I’m really looking forward to practicing post-race recovery in the happiest place on birth!

Buzz Family Photo 2

*I will not personally be going the ice bath route, although I know some experts like them right now. A) that kind of inflammation is necessary in some ways for the healing response and I don’t feel the need to short circuit it unless absolutely necessary since I’m not a professional or elite athlete and b) I really hate cold water.

Sources: http://www.active.com, http://www.runnersworld.com, Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway training plans


4 responses to “Recovery after a race

  1. Desiree' says:

    Just discovered your blog from Katie at Runs for Cookies! These are some really great tips! and I’m uber jealous of your post-race recovery being at the Happiest Place on Earth! ºoº

  2. […] tired this week, but thanks to all of the things I learned after my 10K back in September (Recovery after a race – great recap of what to do post-race, if I do say so myself!) I haven’t been in pain […]

  3. […] tight more than sore). I know from my past race recovery experiences (Recovery after my first 10K here with lots of good general tips and Easing back into running after PHM here) that I can expect to […]

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