RECOVERING FROM THE RACE
A whole lot of planning, training, preparing and thinking goes into running a race like The Constantia Village K-Way Road Race. But seasoned athletes will tell you that you need a game plan for once you’ve crossed the finishing line, too. You need to plan for your race recovery before race day dawns.
“Knowing how to recover is just as important as knowing how to race,” says Kristin Gustafson, an exercise science and wellness coordinator. In fact, what you do to recover plays a big role in how you will perform in your next race.
Here are some tips from the experts on how to manage the minutes, hours and days after the event.
ON THE DAY
Keep moving: “After your race, don’t just stop running,” advises long-distance running coach Erik Ammon on Active.com. Your muscles need to cool down, and this could entail simply walking for five to 10 minutes or a slow jog for a few hundred metres. “It will help get the lactic acid out of your muscles, prevent your muscles from tightening and keep the blood flowing through your system to help with muscle repair,” he says.
Eat and drink: You will need to replace the calories and fluids you lost while running. Muscle repair also needs to be your priority, especially in the first 23 hours after the race, agrees University of Utah physiologist Corey Hart. Immediately after running, refuel with a high-carb drink containing a small amount of protein, which assists with muscle repair. You can also eat a high-carb energy snack that contains protein.
Kristin recommends drinking water and eating a balanced snack that includes carbs, protein and some fat about 30 to 60 minutes after the race to replenish your glycogen storage. “If you can’t handle food right after you finish, grab a sports drink or chocolate milk as both have a healthy mix of electrolytes, sugar and calories,” she says.
Stretch: Light stretching also helps immediately after a run. Don’t get too excited, you just want to soothe your muscles. You can roll out your muscles with a foam roller if you have one at hand or massage your legs to help decrease pain and soreness, and prevent cramping. “These activities help your body’s circulation, which will bring new nutrients to over-worked parts of your body,” explains Kristin.
Reflect: Take a moment to revel in your accomplishment before starting to think about the next race. Think about what went well during the race and what you can improve on.
Don’t worry if you feel tired. “You just put your body through a lot of stress to cross the finish line,” Kristin says. And if you feel down that it’s all over, it’s a normal reaction as your body experiences a dip in feel-good endorphins from the time you complete the race and a few hours thereafter.
Relax and rest: Some runners struggle to wind down after a race. Corey says runners should try to relax so that the body can initiate its natural recovery process. Sleep is also vital to recovery.
THE DAY AFTER
Get moving: Try some light exercise. Take it easy – go for a walk. You could also try going for a short, easy-paced run if you feel up to it, says Erik. “This will help to get the blood flowing through your system to aid in muscle repair … and can also help alleviate any aches you may feel.”
Process your feelings: If your race didn’t go well and was disappointing, don’t block out the negative feelings. Rather process them. Try to be objective and analyse what went wrong.
THE FIRST WEEK
Don’t fight fatigue: Don’t get anxious about not training as you might be feeling exhausted. If you ran the 15 km race and trained hard for an extended period, you probably ignored feelings of exhaustion or fatigue.
Now that it’s over and your body has let down its guard, you might experience what is called “build-up fatigue,” says Corey. “Don’t fight this fatigue,” he says. Stick to “light, active recovery and remember that the priority is to rest so that the balance of hormones in your body can return to normal”.
Start training again: If you’re not feeling tired, you could contemplate resuming your normal running schedule at the end of the first week, says Erik.
THE NEXT THREE WEEKS
Pick up the pace: It’s time to reset your goals and get going – unless you’re injured, of course. Do you want to run faster or further or take your running to the next level? If you’re not feeling up to it, that’s also okay. Your motivation will return in good time.
If you’re ready to hit the road, start to intensify your training and keep an eye out for your next race challenge. Good luck!
SOURCES: Active.com; runnersworld.com;