The most popular conversation among runners is how to prepare and train for the big race. Very seldom do we talk on steps after a race. Whether finishing with a PR or a not so good performance, the race is part of the training process. Some of the really poor performances can be chalked up as another solid tempo run. A good affirmation to live by after a poor performance is “another race under the belt”, which contributes to your future improvement.
So congratulations on finishing another race and job well done! Yes job well done no matter the finish time. This performance can be counted as another training run propelling you towards a PR. The next step towards the PR is called “proper recovery” after a race. Recovery or taking care of yourself are important elements to prevent injury, and to improve upon the last performance yielding a better result. Let’s look at a few important steps for quick recovery, which we call the “transitional race to training continuum.”
Cool down principles go into effect immediately after the race, which includes walking or jogging to eliminate the lactate acids and to slowly return your heart rate to normal. Practice proper nutrition by hydrating with water or sports drinks while reaching for a small carbohydrate and lean protein snack. Proper nutrition will halt the muscle loss while regenerating metabolism and energy. Focus on flexibility by performing some simple stretching and schedule a deep tissue message which sometimes are provided at the race site.
One to two days after the race continue to eat well, drink fluids, and get plenty of rest. Start to introduce small runs with low impact and easy pace. The muscles are in the process of healing and we don’t want to break them down further, we want to allow time for their growth and repair. Hold back on speed work and tempos for at least 5-days to allow proper growth and repair of muscles. Finally, don’t worry about losing fitness, the race offered an excellent amount of tempo and speed work to cover you for two weeks.
The recovery period is a time to relax and enjoy running again. Take in the scenery while running at an easy pace. Bring a friend that wanted you to help them to start a running program. Your light run is a match to their struggle. This is the time to engage in mental-visual race planning. Concentrate on your next race strategy. Enjoy the time, because before you know it speed work will be on the schedule. Just remember races are just fancy training runs.