Just finished a big race, huh? Well, congrats! All that training paid off and you’re on to the next starting line, right? Whoa, Nellie! Just as important as all that hard work you put in before the race is taking the time to recover after it.
Think about it: you just pushed yourself really hard, both physically and mentally. Allowing your body (and mind) to recoup after a big race is what helps you avoid injuries, burnout, fatigue, and (gulp) lack-luster performances. Want to be at your best before your next race? It’s all about recovery, my friends.
Why a Post-Race Recovery Plan Should be a Priority
It’s funny, runners make plans to run races, follow plans to train for those races, but plans for recovering from those races often get lost in the shuffle (or are not even thought of at all). When the race is over, many runners are already looking to the next race and looking right past the most important part of getting there — giving their bodies some well-deserved R&R. Now we know what you’re thinking: Is it really that big of a deal? Uh, yes! Here’s why:
Recovery Helps You Heal
Muscles and tendons pushed to their limits get tiny, microscopic tears that need time to repair themselves — it’s actually how they build strength and power. Asking muscles to do too much too soon is actually asking for a whole heap of trouble! A little tired can become totally fatigued, tightness can turn into large tears, a small amount of damage can end up a chronic injury. And that next race you wanted to do? Well, maybe next year.
Racing doesn’t just break down muscles, either. Your body also uses up energy and loses fluids, glycogen, and electrolytes. After a race, it needs to restore what it's lost and take time to heal. If you don’t allow that to happen, your body doesn’t have the chance to repair, replenish, and rebuild, and instead it continues to break down. Not good.
Recovery Helps You Stay Healthy
Skipping recovery or cutting it short can also do a number on your immune system, making you susceptible to getting run down and leaving the door open for illnesses to come on in and stay a while. Obviously, this will set you back even longer — there’s nothing like a sick bug to mess with your training schedule.
Finally, racing can be a big brain drain, too. Running, after all, entails not just physical effort, but mental effort as well. Your brain can get just as tired as your muscles and not letting it take a breather can definitely affect your future performances.
Put simply, taking time off to recover will ultimately help you avoid having to take more time off later, and will also allow you to come back fresher and stronger, both physically and mentally.