You don’t have to be the best athlete—or even an athlete at all for that matter—to know that in order to be successful in a race, you have to train well, putting in hours of strength training, miles of running, and maybe even sticking to a strict diet to get your body to its optimal shape. Whether you’re about to run your first 5K or are a veteran marathoner, chances are that you’ve done some training in the months leading to the race.
But what happens after you cross that finish line? You catch your breath, grab your well-deserved custom finisher medal, take your picture, wrap yourself in that shiny mylar blanket, and celebrate your accomplishment with your friends and family.
Then what? With all the excitement of having finished the race (and after setting a new PR!) it’s easy to forget that you just put your body through an intense activity. Maybe you check out the booths at the expo, go right to the beer garden, or go straight home to rest—or maybe you find yourself at our big busy tent waiting for your post-race massage.
With the La Jolla Half Marathon & 5K coming up this weekend, we wanted to drop some knowledge and tips to help you be successful even after the race and make sure that you give your body the T.L.C. that it deserves.
But first, here’s an added pre-race tip bonus, especially for those of you who are running your first race:
TIP #1: Be Prepared.Being consistent throughout your training is vital for your next (or first) big race. Your legs and spirit will thank you for the work you have done leading up to your event. Utilize a training program or use a coach to guide your weekly and monthly program to help you stay on track.
TIP #2: Keep it Simple.
It is important to have a healthy realistic expectation for your run. For a good predictor of your run time, look at your longer runs and what your average time per mile was for those runs. It is realistic to assume you can maintain a slightly faster pace during your race than those specific runs.
Now, on to the post-race tips!
The Five RE’s for Runners – Post-Race
TIP #1: Reset!
How many times have you crossed the finish line or a hard training run and then just stopped, hung out with friends, and reminisced about the race? It is important to “cool down,” allowing the heart rate to gradually drop and return to normal, flush the legs, and do some proper stretching.
TIP #2: Rehydrate!
Plenty of research indicates hydrating and refueling within 30 minutes of your race is ideal. Many runners like to hang out at the beer garden (a form of hydration, of course) and many times won’t eat for several hours following a race. We would encourage you to drink at least 20 oz. of electrolyte/carbohydrate drink to replenish losses and to eat within one hour of your race if possible.
SUB-TIP: If your urine isn’t clear, then you need more liquids.
Good foods that house your next electrolytes include bananas, avocados, green veggies, and almonds.
TIP #3: Recover!
Recovery is about allowing your body to heal from a hard effort as running hard can create some damage to the muscular tissue. We recommend taking at least a few days off from running, but the best results come from 7-10 days of recovery. That doesn’t mean no running, but avoid getting back into full training mode too soon. Additionally, gentle cycling the next day, lots of stretching, and soft tissue work (massage, foam roll, trigger point) are highly effective in aiding in the recovery. And finally–get plenty of sleep, it is likely you have lost some in the last 8 weeks from early morning runs. Sleep is one of the best ways to help your body recover.
SIDE NOTE: We offer great specials and discounts exclusively at our booths on race day. We encourage you to take advantage of these offers to help you in your recovery. You’ll be surprised at what a difference a sports massage can do for your body (pre- and post-race)!
TIP #4: Repair!
Repairing speaks to the healing and regeneration of muscle tissue that will likely present as soreness and discomfort over the next several days. The key ways to repair that tissue in the short term is to stretch and recover mobility to the muscle and joints (primarily hips/knee/ankles and low back). Stretching immediately after the race, including massage, is very beneficial. For long-term benefits, we recommend getting back into a strength and conditioning program in which you build your muscular tissue back up to set a good foundation for your next training block. The best foods for muscle repair include “leucine” which is found in milk and eggs, while proteins (meat/fish/Omega 3 fats) help reduce muscle soreness and help support the protein synthesis vital to recovery.
TIP #5: Rebuild!
Rebuilding involves many items including Tips 1-4, but is more about timing and structure to allow for your body to avoid additional overuse, injury, and fatigue. Once fully-recovered it is highly recommended that you rebuild by integrating a strength program into your routine. Adding and maintaining sports-specific strengthening programs will aide in injury prevention. Rebuilding is also about resetting and evaluating your prior training and race result. Look at what areas you need to focus on such as speed, race nutrition, pacing, and timing, and then create structure around your next training cycle. Preparing for the next race is about more than just getting back on the road or trail, but about building the right structure to create the most success for you. Hiring a coach could be more than worth the money and it creates accountability with that knowledgeable structure coming from a professional that can help you meet your goals.
With that said, good luck on your race and we’ll see you at the finish line! Come say hi, try a post-race massage, check out our exclusive deals, and ask some questions. We’d love to meet you!