Proper hydration is crucial to an effective recovery. During intense exercise, you will lose a lot of water through sweat so it’s important to top yourself back up with water and electrolytes. Easiest way to do this is to keep a water bottle with you and keep sipping gradually to keep yourself hydrated, and also have a sodium-rich sports drink to top up your electrolytes.
Nutrition is almost as important as hydration. Your muscles will have used up your glycogen and carbohydrate stores so it’s important to re-fill these stores. A common athlete favourite is jelly babies as these will provide you with a level of sugar that your body is craving. A banana will also have the same effect and is a slightly healthier alternative.
Your first full meal after your race is crucial and if possible, should be eaten 2-3 hours post-exercise. This meal should be a combination of carbohydrates, protein and some fat to give your muscles all that they need to recover from the strain of your race.
A post-race cooldown and stretching session will help your body recover. These will help to gradually reduce the intensity on your heart, lungs and body, and increase blood-flow to your muscles.
Stretching will ease out any tight and tense muscles and help prevent injuries due to over-worked and tight muscles. It will also help to identify any areas of specific soreness that may need further attention.
- Active recovery
Active recovery will have a similar effect to stretching as this will keep your muscles working without adding to the strain. Active recovery can take many forms but is usually as simple as a light workout (whether that’s a swim, bike or run). Much like with stretching, an easy workout will aid blood-flow to your sore muscles and help your lungs and heart get back to normal after the big effort of your race.
Sleep and rest is the pinnacle of race recovery and without it, your body could be left worse for wear. While you’re asleep, your body will be working hard to repair your muscles, bones and other structures by sending growth hormones all throughout your body. If you can, try and get at least 9 hours of sleep after your race to maximise your recovery time and help you get back out there as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Proper sleep will also help your immune system recover. After strenuous exercise, your immune system will be at a low point so it’s important ensure you’re conscious of germs, bacteria and viruses by washing your hands and, if possible, avoiding people who are unwell.
A common theme for all of these recovery methods is patience. You may be itching to get back out there as quickly as possible and after a race, it’s very easy to over-do it and open yourself up to injury and illness. Above all else, be patient and trust the process. An effective and efficient recovery will mean that you’ll be back training and performing as soon as possible.