1) Train appropriately for the course: No amount of prevention matters as much as this. My very first marathon I did everything by the book – ate right, did a long run of 22 miles, had weekly massages, stretched diligently…but I did all my training on a pancake flat trail for a course that ended up being about 50% rolling hills. To say I was sore was an understatement; I felt as though my quads were thrown in a Cuisinart and then shoved back into my skin!That rookie mistake had me hobbling around for a full week. It was a mistake I only made once, so you don’t have to.
2) Refuel immediately afterward: when you cross the finish line your cells are clamoring for fuel. They are best primed to receive nourishment within 45 minutes of a workout, so have something on hand that has protein, carbohydrates, and antioxidants to pump those cells up with the nutrition they need to repair damaged muscle tissue. I often have a coconut water based smoothie with protein powder after my hard runs. Bonus: this one action will typically give you enough energy to prevent crashing later in the day!
3) Stay hydrated: your body needs water to flush out lactic acid and other metabolites from your hard work as well as bring in nutrients to restore. Staying hydrated ensures there’s enough liquid material to accomplish hundreds of metabolic reactions that require water to do these tasks.
4) Ice bath. The notorious ice bath. Dreaded by all runners – until you have one. Here’s my super secret squirrel method to the ice bath that takes the edge off and makes it *almost* enjoyable.
5) Massage: schedule a massage 24-72 hours after your race. Any initial inflammation will go down and the extra stretching and massaging will help the body heal and repair itself. This also helps prevent muscular imbalances from leading to injury as you continue training for your next event.
6) Sleep: sleep is when we do most of our healing. Get a good night’s sleep after your race and you will be setting yourself up for a quicker recovery! Post-race naps are also well earned!
These are tips that I use regularly and have used with all my runners over the last ten years to help them cross the finish line and have the energy and recovery to allow them to take care of kids, get back to work, and avoid injury. Give them a try and see how they work for you!