Breasting the tape at the finish line is not the end of your race experience. Post-race recovery should be incorporated into your holistic training plan to help your body repair itself faster and keep it fine-tuned for optimal performance. But some runners do overlook this aspect and end up coping with prolonged - and unnecessary - pain. Try these tips to help your muscles recover better from your race-day exertions, whether it's a marathon or a 10km race.
Celebrate With A Steak
A study by the International Society of Sport Nutrition found that runners need to eat more protein, not calories. To regenerate and rebuild muscles after a workout, eating sufficient protein could help prevent injury and strengthen the immune system.
This is important because after an intense bout of exercise, your immune system is weakened for a few hours. Go for 1g to 1.6g per kg of bodyweight a day (that means 70g to 112g of protein a day). Good sources of protein per 100g: chicken breast (29g), peanut butter (28g) and beef (31g).
Head To Starbucks
Runners know they need carbs post-run to rebuild their glycogen stores, but a recent study suggests caffeine may also enhance recovery. Cyclists rode hard for two consecutive days to drain their glycogen stores. They then drank a carb beverage with or without caffeine. Researchers found that having a drink with caffeine rebuilds glycogen stores 66 per cent more than a carb-only drink.
Chocolate milk is another option we'd suggest. It contains a combination of protein, carbs, salt, sugar (to spike insulin levels for quick carbohydrate absorption) and beneficial minerals like calcium to make it a clear (and delicious) winner.
Go For A Light Run
Active rest, or doing some form of activity on your rest day is akin to doing a light jog (as opposed to walking) in between interval runs. You’re obviously not going to go full-force with a hardcore workout, so scale down your efforts.
As a benchmark, run at the most 30 per cent of your maximum effort – for instance, if your resting heart rate is 60, and your maximum heart rate is 170, keep your level of physical effort at around 93 beats per minute (170 – 60 x 0.3).
Heal Muscle Strains
If you unfortunately suffered a strain or minor muscle pull during the course of the run, remember rest, ice, compression and elevation. It's crucial you remember the elevation part - keeping the injured area above the level of your heart, and head, will help minimise the swelling.
You can also do some light aerobic exercise to deliver fresh blood to the injured site and blast out lactic-acid buildup, further reduce swelling and speed up your recovery time. Just don't aggravate your injury.