A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post outlining some basic race recovery principles. You can read that here if you missed it. This past week I found myself in slightly unchartered territory. I ran the 26.2 with Donna Breast Cancer Half Marathon (race report here) and found myself in absolutely no condition to run post-race. This was my 17th half marathon and I’ve always been able to recover pretty quickly and get out for at least an easy 2 or 3 miles a couple days post race. With the horrible cramping I experienced during the last 3 miles of the Donna, I was barely walking even by Friday.
An important component of race recovery is continuing to stay active. Unless you are seriously injured, you should keep moving in the days after your race to aid in flushing out toxins and keep your muscles loose. Complete lack of movement is generally a pretty bad idea. (As always, we are not doctors or trainers, so consult with an expert if you are experiencing any symptoms of injury.)
So what are some ways to stay active in those first few days if you really aren’t up to running? First of all, LISTEN to your body. For many, even cross-training isn’t advisable in the first couple days post-race. Also, the longer the race, the more time you should take before getting back into training.
- Soak in a hot tub (add Epsom Salts) and stretch afterward – this feels AMAZING and if you soak before bed you’ll also sleep better
- Light massage
- Easy walking – 10 to 15 minutes is good or more if you’re up to it
- A bike ride – think nice and easy, don’t show up at that mega-hard spin class – 30 minutes, easy effort
- Take a yoga class, just don’t force the stretches
- Get back into strength training but keep it easy on the legs – give your abs and arms some attention
- Go for a swim
- After the initial soreness has subsided, schedule a deep tissue massage to finish breaking up any scar tissue or adhesions
I’m happy to report that by Sunday (7 days post-race) the after-effects of all that cramping were gone and I got out for a very nice 3-mile run. I’m quite certain the walks I took, the basement spin, and a day of light lifting helped move the healing process along. Do you have a favorite post-race ritual that helps you heal and get back out on the roads?