This weekend thousands of runners threw themselves at the mercy of the stunning Blue Mountains in the annual Ultra Trail Australia Race. Regardless of whether you finished in 9hrs or 24 hours its safe to assume you will be a little sore today. Tight calf’s, bruised shins, aching quads and lets not forget about the chafe…what a reward for your hard work!!!
Post race recovery is often an area overlooked by runners, with the high of finishing the goal race lingering and the decompression from months of hard training starting to begin. However laying down for a week, eating ice cream and drinking beers, whilst appealing, isnt the best thing for your body.
Here are a few simple but effective tips to help promote recovery and get you back out on the trails healthy.
- Nutrition: After a prolonged hard race your body is damaged and the immune system will be suppressed for a number of days even a week or two. Its critical to continue to eat well with a balanced clean diet. A focus on good proteins will also give the body the nutrients it needs to complete the repair process for damaged muscles (and believe it or not organs!). The goal here really is to keep the body fuelled up as it will be susceptible to infection, the use of multivitamins or supplements might also be worth a look if your diet is lacking.
- Hydration: Race hard…Party hard! While we all like to indulge in a beer or twelve after a race to celebrate our achievements it is worth remembering that alcohol will only increase the inflammation process in the body. This is going to prolong recovery time, compromise muscle repair and put added stress onto an already suppressed immune system. That is not to say you shouldn’t have a post race celebration…just maybe keep it to one night…not a whole week! Drinking plenty of water is as always the key!
- Active recovery: Right now the last thing you probably want to do is run. However getting the body moving as soon as possible after a race is the key to good recovery. Start with a gentle walk the day after, each day get out and go for a decent walk and after two or three days consider adding in little jogs to the walk with the idea to build to a easy run of 20-30min by the end of the week (sooner if you can). Being active will help promote blood flow to the muscles which will aid in repair and removal of waste products. It will also give you a chance to assess if there are any injury concerns.
- Stretching/Rolling: It goes without saying that everything is going to be tight. Ideally you should dedicate 15-20min every day to stretching your body out. Focus on glutes, hips, groin and back as these are the areas that cope the most abuse when your running tired. Joining in some gentle yoga classes the week after is a good choice also.
- Injury’s: Once the initial inflammation has gone (around 3-4 days) you should then have a good idea if there are any injury issues from the race. Its really important that you attend to these as soon as possible. Seeing a qualified sports physio is the best bet as they can catch little niggles before they turn into big injury’s.
Other helpful tips
Ice: Best for reducing the inflammation of joints/injury’s as well as pain relief (restricts blood flow to the area). Use this for the first 48hrs post race.
Heat: Used to increase blood flow to the area, helps move waste products from muscles and promote repair. Should be used post 48hrs and not for acute injury’s (generally).
Compression: Used to help promote movement of blood in the body. Will help remove waste products from the muscles and encourage repair by promoting blood flow. Will also help reduce inflammation. Can be used at all stages of the recovery process. **Note particularity for athletes who are travelling long distances after a race, compression socks/leggings will help reduce the incidence of Deep Vein Thrombosis from sitting long periods. **