How to Recover as Hard as You Raced

It’s been one week since Brooklyn, and I’m still in my post-run high. The weather was awful, and yet I came, I saw, and I conquered. For the past week, I’ve been treating myself, recovering, and trying to get back into challenging workouts. I’ve recovered from countless races at this point, and I think it’s about time that I pass on what I’ve learned either through positive experiences or through the mistakes I’ve made along the way!

1. Make your post race routine as comfortable as possible for yourself

We’ve all be there: So and so comes to cheer you on during the race and wants to brunch and hangout afterwards. You don’t want to seem like a bad friend, so you accept. After all, they trekked ALL this way just to see YOU and maybe even stood in some rain/sleet/hail/snow. Before you take a trip down Guilty Lane, ask yourself if you really want to leave the race, travel to a restaurant, park, wait to be seated, wait to order, and last but most certainly not least, wait for your food. It will likely be a few hours before you eat if you go this route. I did this one time and despite that over a year has passed, I still regret it. While there is nothing quite like brunch in NYC, all I wanted after 13.1 trying miles was sweet potato fries and kombucha.

If you want to have a nice meal after a race, go somewhere close to the finish line and eat a snack on your way there. Maybe eat two snacks, I won’t judge.

If you don’t want to go out after the race, don’t go out after the race! Saying no to post-race drinks has been one of the best decisions of my life, especially after long distances like half marathons. Once I cross the finish line, I need water and a bathroom. Then, I may take a pic or two for the ‘gram. After that, I’m Casper, the exhausted, hangry ghost! After Brooklyn, I was far too tired, hungry, wet, and cold to hang around. I went to McDonald’s, ordered a large hot tea, and made my home. And I ate two snacks on the way there!

Once I got home, I heated up my lunch that I had cooked the day before so that it would be ready as soon as I got out of the shower. After spending my entire morning in the pouring rain, I was living for every bit of my chicken, cabbage and potatoes! Even though I was at home with my heat on, the fatigue proceeded to hit me like a ton of bricks. So I got in bed. And I laid there for 4 hours. It felt amazing. In the evening, I was ready to go out when some friends called. Why? Because I followed my post-race routine!

In short, after a race, do what makes you most comfortable, whatever that is, even if you wrap yourself in a blanket at 1pm.

2. Eat all the food

Food is fuel. You won’t be running anywhere if you’re running on empty. I tend to bring my own snacks for after the race as I am allergic to the refreshments stand. Either way, refuel and treat yourself. I love to have dessert from my favorite bakeries following a tough race.

3. Don’t run intensely (immediately)

Endorphins are great, but they can also be dangerous! I’m really bad at toning it down following a race. Even though I know I need to rest, sometimes I feel so good after a race that I want to jump up and run again. A few years ago, I finished a 15k and thought that since it wasn’t quite a half, I didn’t need to recover. Three days following the race, I continued with my track workouts, running hills and sprints. Soon after starting back up with these workouts, I developed a sharp pain in my left knee. Not only did I have to stop running, but I had to stop lifting as well. My knee was back to normal within a few weeks. However, I know that without a doubt, I overdid it. Had I just taken a short break or kept my runs easy, I wouldn’t have gotten injured.

4. Don’t sign up for a race (immediately)

All you have to do is go back in time on my blog to see how guilty I am of this. Last September, I contracted the racing virus. I raced three weekends in a row. Why? Because I planned to run a one miler and a half marathon but then threw in a ten miler for fun! And I was plagued with issues. Shin splints. Foot pain. Perpetually sore muscles. I would literally slide around my office without picking up my feet because it hurt! If you want to sign up for another race, make sure the race is not that following Sunday. Just sit down and enjoy your endorphins. It’s a lot better than running in pain for months at a time.

5. Keep it moving

Just because you may need to take some time off from running doesn’t mean you should stay in bed wrapped up in that blanket. Take a rest day after the race. Rest is good. Then, select a course of movement. I decided not to run at all for 7 days after my race to avoid the injuries that creep up on me after long distance races. Instead, I practiced yoga, went to dance class, lifted weights, and kick-boxed. My goal was to move for an hour each day, regardless of the activity. Since I am just coming off of BBG and structure my runs to a T, it felt weird to do so many different workouts within a week! Today was my first day running again, and it felt fantastic. I definitely missed it! At the same time, I’m happy to be injury-free.

6. Trust yourself (or don’t)

Hopefully, you know yourself better than anyone else. I’ve learned that I tend to overestimate my wellbeing following a race and slack off in the recovery department, which is why I have to plan out my recovery so that I don’t keel over. Knowing your tendencies and habits will help you to ultimately plan for and experience the best recovery possible.

How do you like to recover from a race?

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