After weeks of diligent training, the big race has finally come and gone. Hopefully you knocked it out of the park, set a new PR and achieved your goals. Most likely, you encountered some ups and downs with your training, gave it a good effort but came up a bit short of a perfect outing. That’s running—it doesn’t always go exactly to plan.
The question now is: What to do with yourself? The pre-race routine of scheduling workouts, carefully monitoring your diet and looking forward to racing no longer dominate your thoughts. For at least another few days, and perhaps even several weeks, it’s time to focus on recharging your batteries. Here are some suggestions for non-running activities that will provide a much-needed mental break and help restore your physical condition before you begin training again in earnest.
Start Your Recovery ASAP
After a big race of any distance—especially longer events like half or full marathons and ultras—your recovery should begin almost as soon as you cross the finish line. It takes a concerted effort to bounce back, so take action to restore your damaged muscles and restock your energy supplies.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Once in a blue moon a race goes just as planned. Most times, there are things you wish you’d done differently, either on the race course or in your preparations. It’s good to analyze your run and decide what to do better, but try to keep your emphasis on the positive takeaways.
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Decide How Much Recovery is Needed
All athletes—whether they are young or old, beginners or veterans—need to build recovery time into their schedules if they want to keep improving and avoid overtraining. For masters-aged runners in particular, the amount of time needed to bounce back lengthens. Read the guide below from one of America’s top age-group runners for insights on how long of a break to take (the chart on page 3 of the guide is especially useful).
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Strike a Pose
Yoga is a great restorative activity for runners. Many of us also skimp on stretching in the final weeks before a big race, so now’s a good time to get back in the groove. Many yoga studios offer classes designed just for runners, or you can build your own routine by watching the excellent yoga videos and tutorials we’ve assembled at Competitor.com.
Power Up With Protein
The final week before a long-distance event typically means carbs, carbs and more carbs. That’s a smart approach for ensuring you don’t bonk, but now the nutritional emphasis shifts to restoring damaged muscle tissues. That doesn’t mean you should stop eating carbs completely (depleted muscles need them to recover), or that you need to eat a steak at every meal, but it’s important to ensure you get enough protein in the post-race phase.
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There’s the Rub
If you’ve been considering a post-race splurge, there’s no better bang for your buck than a professional massage. Massage is one of the quickest ways to promote recovery because it helps release toxins from muscles and flush out fatigued muscles. Plus, it feels really, really good.
Plan Your Comeback
This is also a great period to start mulling over your next race, and maybe even get signed up months in advance for an event that might be a sellout. However, if you feel reluctant about committing to anything, be mindful of the possibility that it’s still too soon. There’s always another race. So be sure to wait until the fire is burning brightly again rather than just signing up for an event.