Get your post-race nutrition right
First thing is to refuel and rehydrate. Do this immediately after the race, even if you don’t feel like it. It’s clear that a lot of us lose our appetite after a long run, as stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol have been mobilizing your stores of sugars, fats and protein, so your brain thinks you’re full. The best thing to do is ease yourself into eating to help reconfigure your brain. Try this:
- Within 30 minutes of finishing, grab a drink. A sports drink containing carbohydrates and electrolytes is ideal. If you don’t like sports drinks then try a diluted fruit juice.
- Between 30 and 90 minutes after your run, progress to flavoured milk. Milk is hydrating and rich in muscle-repairing protein which your body needs. It also contains calcium and magnesium. Good for bones and recovery.
- Within two hours (when the enzymes that convert carbohydrates into glycogen are most active), tuck into a snack containing both protein and refueling carbs. Salty snacks are good or try a sandwich with peanut butter, cheese, lean ham or oily fish, which contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 oil.
- In the evening, resist heavy meals, junk foods, too much alcohol and caffeine. Stick to moderate portions of easily digested foods and hydrating fluids. A jacket potato or pasta would be ideal.
Get your post-race recovery plan right
- Make sure you stretch because not only will this help reduce post-race soreness the next day, but it will also help remove lactic acid.
- At the end of your race, keep moving. Grab your foil cape and walk under your heart rate returns to a resting level. This should take about five to ten minutes.
- Stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and glutes and shoulders. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.
- Finish by elevating your legs up against a wall or bench to aid circulation, drain fluids from legs and stretch your hamstrings.
- If you can, try to get a post-race massage. Massage therapists can often get busy but it’s worth it if you can find one who is free at the end of the race.
- Take an ice bath when you get home. A five to ten minute ice bath will decrease muscle temperature, reducing inflammation and pain.
- A mixture of light rest and recovery the day after the race will help your body recover faster. Try gentle stretching and walking, swimming or if you’re not sore a few days afterwards, a gentle jog.