10 Things You Can Do to Recover Quicker After a Race

© Mariia Boiko | Dreamstime

1) Cool down

It may be tempting to fall over the finish line and stay on the ground for an indeterminable amount of time. However, it is best to keep moving (albeit very slowly) for a short while after the race to bring your heart rate down.

Walk slowly for 10-15 minutes as you meander through the finish line festivities, collect your gear, and celebrate your finish.

2) Hydrate

Hopefully you’ll be handed a bottle of water and an electrolyte drink at the finish line and be able to start hydrating right away. Aim to finish 1-2 bottles in the time it takes you to cool down. If you didn’t feel the urge to urinate during the race, work on getting to that point post-race.

Keep drinking 1-2 cups of liquid per hour after the race. Your weight, the amount of fluids you took in during the race, and the weather will all make everyone have different experiences. However, all runners can aim for pale yellow urine.

3) Eat

Seek out carbs within the first 30 minutes. It can be either solid or liquid format, but the goal is to get a couple hundred calories in the body. Again, lighter runners will require less, heavier runners will need a few more.

Chocolate milk, bananas, and granola bars are all popular post-race foods. If you have food allergies or are picky about your choices, make sure to have options in your drop bag.

4) Clean up

Depending on weather conditions, you might consider doing this a few steps earlier. Getting out of your sweaty, wet gear is especially important in a cooler race as your body temperature will drop almost immediately when you stop running.

Bring warm and dry clothes and have them either in your drop bag or leave them with a friend/relative at the finish line.

5) Compress

Compression is still up for debate while running, but it certainly can help post-race. Use compression sleeves or socks to increase the movement of blood flow after the race. Wearing them for at minimum of a few hours post-race can assist in recovery and reduce both inflammation and aches.

6) Eat (again)

After the initial carb-filled 30 minute post-race window, it is important to eat a meal within a few hours of finishing. Many runners will treat themselves to a high-fat, calorie-laden meal, but will recover much better if they eat a bit more balanced.

Aim for nutrition-dense foods like fruits and vegetables with a bit of protein like chicken or fish. If your stomach is feeling unsettled, try a smoothie with a bit of Greek yogurt until you are ready to eat solid food.

7) Travel cautiously

If you must travel for an extended period of time following the race, exercise caution. Make plenty of pit stops if you are driving to stop and walk around. If you are able to stretch out as the passenger, use as much space as you can.

If you find yourself traveling in an airplane after a race, vie for an aisle seat if possible so you can move about as freely as one can in the air.

8) Rest

Resting after the race is quintessential to recovery. However, an all afternoon nap is not the ideal way to recover. Make sure that you are getting up at least every hour and walking for a few minutes. You can refill your water glass while you are up!

9) Sleep

Aim to get to sleep early the night after a race. You will likely be tired anyway, but staying up late to celebrate can hinder your recovery. Sleep is arguably one of the best things you can do to help your body repair itself and quality sleep is important.

10) Active recovery

Walking in the days after the race can help with recovery. Your legs might be stiff for a few minutes, but once warmed up, they will likely feel better. Go as slow as necessary and keep your heart rate low. You can swim or cycle if you prefer; just keep recovery easy as your body heals.

Carissa Liebowitz has run the Boston Marathon as well as dozens of marathons and half marathons. You can follow her running adventures on StravaInstagram and her blog.

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