Tips For Runners Race Recovery

by Jim Richardson | Last Updated: April 28, 2020

Crossing the finishing line of a race can be a great feeling. You’ll feel proud of your accomplishment, a rush of endorphins and relief that it’s all over. But how can a runner best tackle their next challenge, the race recovery?

Photo by Mārtiņš Zemlickis on Unsplash

During a race you put your body through strain and stress that it doesn’t have to deal with day to day. The actions that you take once you’ve crossed the finish line will determine how quickly you recover from the race.

Here are ten tips for runners race recovery based on my own experience of completing over 100 races:

1. Stay On Your Feet

While you might want to collapse on the ground after your race, try and stay on your feet for 20 – 30 minutes. Walking helps your muscles to cool down better than stopping dead and aids race recovery. This will reduce your stiffness in the hours and days to come.

2. Rehydrate

Your body will probably be dehydrated after your race. You need to have a drink soon after you’ve crossed the finish line for the best race recovery. If you’ve been running for less than one hour then water is probably the best choice, while for longer runs drinks containing sugar, sodium and maltodextrin will probably help your recovery.

3. Stretch

Though it can be tempting to skip your post race stretches these can aid your post race recover and help set you up for your next race. Stretching after a race can increase range of motion and improved muscular coordination. Research shows that more flexible muscles recover quicker.

4. Eat Well

To maximise race recovery a runner should ideally eat something within 30 minutes of completing a race. Both Carbohydrates and Protein are important to post race recovery.

Protein will help the growth and repair of muscle tissue while carbohydrates which are the body’s main fuel source will be exhausted after the race. Eat 20g of protein and 1g per kilogram bodyweight to kickstart your race recovery.

5. Avoid Alcohol

After months of training it can be tempting to head to the pub after a race a celebrate your achievement. This won’t do you any lasting damage, but drinking alcohol when dehydrated and sitting for a long period of time will effect your race recovery. If you want to make a quick recovery, avoid alcohol.

6. Early To Bed

You’ll probably be tired from your race, so get an early night. Sleeping will give your body a chance to recover from the exertion of the day.

7. Massage

Research published in theJournal of the American College of Sports Medicine showed that massage done within two hours of finishing a race impairs post race recovery by reducing blood flow and lactic acid removal.

So I’d recommend lining up a massage for the day after your race to ease muscle pain and give you the best post race recovery.

8. Rest

Depending on the distance that you have run, you should expect to feel some aches and pains over the days following your race. Allow your body time to recover and take it easy with walking or slow recover runs before you resume your usual training.

You could consider replacing some of your usual runs with swimming for a week or two. Swimming can be a great compliment to your regular training and help with race recovery.

9. Review Your Race

With your race complete, take time to look at your performance. Did you slow down towards the end of the race, did you hit the wall? Think about what changes you could make when you next take part in a race.

10. Sign Up For Your Next Race

Once you’ve completed a race it can be easy to lose motivation, especially if you’ve been logging a lot of miles training towards a longer distance.

Keep yourself running by signing up for a new race, if you’ve run a 5k you might want to consider trying a 10k, if you’ve run a half marathon you might want to look at completing a full marathon.

The Bottom Line

Completing any race is an achievement, but this is all the more enjoyable if you have a good race recovery and don’t suffer from as many post-race aches and pains.

To give yourself the best chance of a good race recovery, follow the tips above.

What are your tips for race recovery? What have you found works for you?


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