Your race does not end at the finish line. Sure, celebrate that personal best, but taking these simple steps will ensure the pain of racing does not hinder you for days afterwards. Recover quickly, reduce the pain and get back in the saddle quickly.
Eating as soon after the race as possible will give your body the fuel to start recovery. Make sure you eat a good mix of both carbohydrates and protein to replace glycogen and repair damaged muscles.
Eat a sports bar and some fruit right after the race to ensure you immediately consume simple carbs and some protein. For your meal have a good mix of vegetable, rice or pasta and beans. Be sure to snack regularly throughout the day.
Make sure you drink enough fluids post-race to keep hydrated. You need water and electrolytes to replace fluids lost in the race. A sports drink with a good mix of nutrients will do the trick nicely, maybe some coconut water, and avoid alcohol until later. Enjoy a beer or glass of wine with dinner but keep it to a minimum. For dessert, reach for the chocolate milk.
I know the last thing you want to do once you’re finished is MORE exercise but a gentle cool-down will help flush lactic acid out of the muscles and help you recover quicker. A gentle recovery can include 15 minutes to an hour of activity that does not raise your heart rate.
Immediately after the race grab a banana and walk or jog slowly for 15 minutes while reflecting on the race. If it’s a local race I like to cycle home. If you can jump in the water, I find swimming works wonders since it is non-weight bearing and helps your entire body.
Just remember to keep the intensity low, so you don’t delay the recovery. Keep mobile throughout the day, rather than sitting down – no matter how tempting that couch is! If you are going to remain sedentary for the day (and it is well-earned!), put your legs up. Raising them to a 90 degree angle against the wall will help flush them out. Relax in that position for 10 minutes.
Ice bath or cold shower
As painful as it sounds, an ice bath is another tool you can employ to help flush out sore muscles. If jumping in a bathtub full of cold water and ice sounds like too much trouble, cold showers will do the trick. You can also alternate as hot and cold as you can bear for one minute each. I know you have earned a nice, long, hot shower but the cold water will improve the circulation around the body and help flush out your muscles… and take your breath away!
Light stretching will help relax the muscles and reduce the impending pain & tightness. Loosening out the legs and back will minimize your hobbling around the next day!
A yoga session in the day or two after will give you a great stretching session. Just remember not to overexert yourself.
Rest & Massage
Rest & relax for a few days post-race. You might be itching to get back out there again, but allow your body to recover. You’ve earned it!
Treat yourself to a massage. It’s great for the soul and will relax those achey muscles. If that’s not an option, spend some time on the foam roller. Just as good as a massage, it will steamroll your knots and even better, it’s free!
Sleep helps promote muscle repair. A nap in the afternoon post-race will make you feel human again, and be sure to get to bed early in order to get a good night’s sleep.
Immediately after the race, change your clothes & keep warm. Get out of your wet, sweaty gear and get into comfortable, clean clothes. This will prevent you getting cold and divert energy from heating you up to valuable repair work. I like sandals, Hawaiian shirt and a hoodie. Hey, it’s time for fun now!
In short, rest up, eat well and enjoy a few days off. Switch off fully or reflect on your race and start planning the next challenge!