After your goal race?!
Updated: Sep 24, 2018
Not many people think about what to do after their goal race, it's pretty important so I thought I'd write a post about it!
So you've just finished, you are all sweaty and tired, what do you do? First; eat and drink! Ideally a drink with rehydration elements to it, isotonic sports drink or rehydration powder. If not then squash or fruit juice. Eat something that's a mix of carbs and protein, and keep eating small things every couple of hours until a main meal. Energy or breakfast bars are great. As are sandwiches with a protein filling; chicken, tuna or egg. Milkshakes, baked potato with cheese, pasta and vegetables are all great recovery foods.
If you are hot cool off with wet towels, change out of sweaty clothes and head into the shade. If you are cold warm up with a change of clean dry clothes.
Stretch; gently and try to keep moving! When you plan your journey home factor in some places to stretch and walk around, especially if you are in a car. Or you will be frozen into the sitting position when you try to get out!
If you can get a post race massage (ask for it to be gentle) that can be really helpful.
Once you are home and washed (hot or cold water is up to you!) chill out, and gently move around a little so you don't stiffen up. Keep eating healthy carb and protein rich foods and keeping hydrated. Raise your legs a few times to flush out blood to further help recovery.
There is a rule of thumb that says it takes a day to recover from every mile raced, so you will need 3-4 weeks to recover from a marathon for example. Just because your legs have stopped hurting doesn't mean you have recovered; your nervous system, joints and bones, deep musculature and your immune system etc will still be playing catch up. My suggestion would be to take it very easy the first week post race, gentle walks, swims or bike rides will help the soreness. At the end of the week, if you fancy it, a very short easy recovery pace run can be done. Ramp up your training slowing over the next 2-3 weeks, don't go straight into running 4-5 days a week, keep cross training and no hard or long sessions!
One of the other things that can happen after you've done a big goal race is "post race blues". You've trained hard for the event for months, it's been a goal you've shared and maybe fundraised for, chances are it's taken over parts of your life. It's not surprise that it can be a shock to the system when that focus and routine is no longer there.
My tip is to pick your next goal before the big race and get it in the diary, maybe even have an idea of the training you will do to build towards it. It helps to have another goal to focus on, after your recovery of course!
Make the next goal something different, as your body has been through a lot. A shorter distance so you have to train faster. Different terrain; hills or trails perhaps? Or a different sport; walking, cycling, swimming? You will carry over lots of fitness from your race and it will give your body something different to deal with, helping to avoid injury.
It's also really helpful to pay back to the running community, get involved in volunteering or helping at a race of event. It will help you to stay involved whilst recovering and maybe give you some new ideas about different goals to aim for next.
If you've been training for a longer event it may have involved less time with friends and family, so pay them back with a bit of extra time and attention :)
Take some time to reflect back on your training and race; what went will, what will you do again, what might you change? Make a note so you can improve for your next event or goal.
Last but not least it's important to recognise and remember your achievement. How ever the race goes the achievement of all the work, dedication and training will have improved your fitness, and hopefully happiness too!
So, what next?