6 Post Race Recovery Tips
by Kathleen O'Neill, DPT
Congratulations on finishing the Malibu Half Marathon and/or 5K race! You committed to setting a goal, put in the hard work and training, and celebrated that hard work on race day. Next time you’re faced with a hard run, low motivation or a setback, you’ll have all these successes to draw on to get you through to your next running goal. Follow these simple recovery steps to ensure you are healthy and recovered for your next start line.
1. Prioritize Sleep
Get adequate sleep. During deep sleep, human growth hormone (HGH) is released, which helps repair muscles after a hard workout or race effort. Inversely, sleeping fewer than 6 hours regularly can lead to increased cortisol levels, which breaks down tissues and impacts the body’s ability to secrete HGH. As with everything, sleep is very individual, so try getting different amounts of sleep to determine what your body needs to perform at its highest potential! Here are some tips to getting more quality sleep:
Set your bedroom temperature to 68-69 degrees
Try blackout curtains or a sleeping mask to darken your room
Avoid eating a large meal just before bedtime
Avoid exercising right before going to bed
2. Dial in nutrition
Dial in your nutrition and make sure that you’re sufficiently fueling with the right balance of lean protein, good fats, slow release carbs and greens during the week and after your big effort. Be sure to include small amounts of anti-inflammatory fats like nut butter and avocados, as well as anti-inflammatory fruits and veggies.
3. Focus on Active > Passive Recovery
Make time for Active Recovery and be sure to incorporate active mobility, foam rolling and stretching post run and on your “off days”. In the initial few days after the marathon focus on walking, light biking and gentle stretching and foam rolling. When to resume running again is very individualized and dependent on your training goals. Focus on easy, low heart rate running in the first week post-race.
4. Reflect on What You’ve Learned
Lessons learned while completing a training cycle can be both mental and physical. As your body adapted to gradually take on a higher volume of miles and effort you probably learned some valuable lessons too like what type of fuel you prefer, the importance of a recovery routine, understanding and managing your training load and things you will do the same and differently in your next training cycle.
5. Check in With The 6 Essential Skills for Runners
Remember those essential skills: toe yoga, lateral step down, side plank with hip abduction, single leg heel raise, single leg glute bridge and knee to wall? Now is a good time to check in with these movements to keep you on the path of reduced risk of injury through runners' specific strength, stability and mobility.
6. Add (Heavy) Strength to Your Routine
Take this reset between this achievement and your next goal to become a stronger runner and add strength training back into your routine. Heavy strength training, especially during this down time will help strengthen the body's bones, tendons, muscles and ligaments in a way that's extremely beneficial for endurance runners.
This strengthening will help protect against the high volume of repeated force that running puts your body through. You may find that easing off heavy weights is necessary later in your training cycle, so now is the time to add it back in.
Until next time we see each other, take care and bee safe!