Whether you run a 5K or a half marathon, it’s important that you recover both physically and mentally from your hard work.
Refuelling and Rehydration
During a race, your body can deplete the glycogen (carbohydrates) stored in your muscles. The first hour after a race is a critical time for refueling, because muscles are in a more efficient state to replenish glycogen stores.
Consuming foods and drinks that supply healthy carbohydrates is important, but don’t lose sight of calories. Running a 5K is a big accomplishment, but a 150 pound female burns 359 calories running at a 10 minute per mile pace for 30 minutes. If you grab a chocolate milk, a nutrition bar and a bag of pretzels after your race, you can easily exceed the amount of calories you just burned. For shorter races, try a piece of fruit or a small smoothie, and follow up with a healthy and balanced meal for lunch.
Rehydration should also be a part of your recovery plan. The amount of fluid you need will vary depending on the length of your race and how hydrated you stay throughout your activity. Plan to drink at least 8 ounces of water at the end of your race. Once you assess your weight, continue to drink 20 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound you lost during the race.
Most experts agree that you should take at least 1 to 3 days off from exercise after a race. Once you are ready to start exercising again, move into a phase of active recovery. Return to short running distances and incorporate low-intensity activities. Age, fitness level and race experience all play a role in your recovery time. Some experts recommend 1 day of rest for every mile ran in the race. This doesn’t have to mean complete rest. For example, if you run a half marathon, you don’t have to stop exercising for 13 days. It just may be wise to avoid jumping back into an intensive training program until your body has had sufficient time to recover.
Many people anticipate the physical recovery necessary after a race, but fewer are prepared for the mental recovery. Training takes focus and commitment. After you have spent several weeks preparing, it’s common to feel let down and unmotivated once your runner’s high has worn off. As you take time to rest, begin to refocus your goals. Choose your next race and plan your training program, or pick a new activity to try. Setting new goals immediately following a race will keep you on the path to maintaining an active lifestyle.