“A personal best performance requires a personal best recovery.” – Gordo Byrn
In this post I’m really going to cover your A races because, hopefully, these are the ones where you give it all.
There is no set time span for recovery. As a general rule, the longer the race the longer the recovery time, but there are so many factors to consider that it’s impossible to predict how long you will need. You aren’t just recovering from the race. There are many months of training as well, not to mention the mental effort. One thing is for sure, you probably need more than you think.
This is my 8-point recovery process:
- Keep moving after you finish. You can do a formal cool down if you like but walking around and some mobility work is good enough.
- Eat a small carbohydrate and protein meal within 60 minutes of finishing. If a full meal makes you feel uncomfortable then chocolate milk is good enough. You can eat more later.
- Resist the temptation to eat junk food. Some high GI foods are ok in the immediate post race period, but muscles that are already inflamed will be made more so by consumption of inflammatory foods.
- Perform some light activity the day after the race, and follow this with more mobility work. If you want to swim or ride your bike that’s fine but do so without any gadgets to dictate pace and keep the intensity low. This will help to circulate new blood (with all the oxygen, vitamins and minerals) to those tired muscles and remove waste products generated by your hard work.
- Sleep – This is THE #1 way to help your body recover. After longer races and especially if you have consumed caffeine gels, sleep may be difficult the evening after the race. After 24 hours though you must prioritise this.
- Hydration – You will more than likely be dehydrated after your event. Cells recover and repair best with adequate hydration. By all means, enjoy a celebratory beer, but please remember that alcohol is the only true diuretic and so for every unit of alcohol consumed you will need 1.5x that amount of water to rehydrate.
- Ease yourself back into training – many people resume training within a few days of a hard race, but tired bodies do not absorb new loads very well. If you are training hard you might be wasting your effort. Instead, consider light activity for the first week and focus on technical skills. If you can, continue to avoid the gadgets and go by feel. Avoid anything too hard. If you are good at interpreting your body’s signals you’ll know when you are ready to push hard.
- Have compassion for yourself. It is possible to do two hard races a few days or weeks apart and you will be able to finish. The downside is that if you race before you are fully recovered, you will accumulate fatigue and ultimately take much longer to fully recover.
I haven’t mentioned some of the more recent recovery “innovations” like inflatable boots (e.g Normatec), ice baths, cryotherapy or even saunas.
By all means, try these out and if they work for you that’s good but make sure that you get the basics right first.
Sleep, eat clean, keep active, and take your time returning to a full training programme.