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Race Recovery

Congrats to everyone who raced this weekend in Eugene!

It always takes some bravery to go out and do something that you know is going to be uncomfortable, and downright hurt- both during the race and potentially for a few days afterwards. Whether or not you hit your goal times/efforts- just crossing the starting line, knowing what lies ahead (and the months of training lying behind you), is already something worth being proud of.

If you hit your race goal: congrats! That’s awesome.

If you didn’t, I’m sorry to hear that.. It always sucks to put yourself on the line for something you know is going to be hard and not get it. But it’s better to try and fail than not try at all (something Shakespearian like that). Try to figure out what went wrong in preparation or goal setting for next time. If you can’t think of anything, maybe it was simply a bad day. Those happen.

BUT now that you’ve finished, there are some things you should do this week to help you recover fully and prepare for whatever training is ahead of you.

Side note: recovery starts before the race, with proper tapering and race-week preparation- see previous posts for that.

After a hard half-marathon or longer race distance, it’s likely best to take AT LEAST a few days completely off from running. This doesn’t mean being completely sedentary, but it does give the body a chance to recover from the damage it accrues during hard and long racing.

Using Sunday as race day, I would advise zero running Monday through at least Thursday or maybe Friday. If you’re feeling good (and mentally itching for some running) you can likely do a short, easy effort run Sometime Friday-Sunday.

Week two post running: you can start working back toward normal frequency of running, but still keep everything to an easy effort and shorter distance (for those used to marathon training, this may mean nothing over 5-6 miles for two weeks post racing). Trust the PT who gave himself hamstring tendinitis running too far 9 days post 50k in April.. :-/

What you should do week 1 post race are easy movements to help your body loosen back up, give increases in blood flow and help flush out the inflammatory chemicals and metabolites that were produced to help your body heal- but that you don’t want around for too long. These physical activities definitely should include active exercises such as: walking, easy biking, gentle stretching and mobility work (not even full yoga sessions).

Passive modalities, while honestly not as good, are also helpful and downright feel good. These might include: soft tissue work, assisted stretching, Normatec or other compression garments and boots, percussive and vibrational devices, massage, etc. (of course, this is the place for me to plug my Recovery Sessions to help you along the way).

These activities can help speed the recovery process and make you more ready for the easy running week two and resuming training 3-4 weeks post racing.

There are also important non-physical activities that I recommend. You just trained for a race, potentially for months. It’s worth sitting down quietly, maybe with a journal, and reflecting on how the race went for you (social media race recaps work for this, but make sure you’re honest with yourself). What went well, what didn’t, what do you wish you would have done differently in training, in race week prep, or during the race. Write it down so you do it next time.

Enjoy your time off running to be with family, friends, and do the stuff you’ve neglected recently.

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