Runners spend months training and planning for a race that often it can be overwhelming to think about all of the important things that come post-race in terms of recovery. From how long to rest to when to get that post-race massage, there are important rules of thumb for how to help your body bounce back after you’ve collected your finisher’s medal.
Elizabeth Corkum, a New York City-based trainer and owner of Coach Corky Runs, has a few key post-race tips sure to help you refuel and recover properly, so we asked her to share how runners can best prep for some rest and relaxation after the finish line has come and gone.
How long should you wait to start running again?
The answer to this question, of course, varies on the race distance completed, but there are some general tips to be aware of. “In general, the longer the distance, the more recovery you need,” shares Corkum. “If you raced a 5K on Sunday, you may be fine to go out for some easy recovery miles on Tuesday. A marathoner, however, should take at least a week.” Some people may want to get out for a run earlier than that, but know that you need to give microfibers time to recover in order to reduce the risk of injury. “You won’t lose fitness by waiting a few days, but you can risk injury by getting back out there too quickly.”
Do you really need an ice bath?
Corkum is of the opinion that ice baths are not necessary, but she does recommend you try it to see how it works for you personally. “In my experience, I have done them a few times but feel them mentally painful.” She reminds that they are not the only thing you can do for recovery, so if you live in a very cold climate, don’t feel like you have to jump in ice water after a winter run.
When is the best time to get a post-race massage?
Though it can feel great to hop on a massage table at the finish line, that post-race massage should be held off for a few days. “You may be so tender, so you are going into the massage inflamed,” explains Corkum. “Also, it is always recommended that you are well hydrated going into a massage. If you get a massage the same day as your race—especially if you ran a marathon—you don’t have that hydration necessary and may be setting yourself up for feeling extra sore after the massage.” Corkum recommends you treat sore body parts with an ice pack and an anti-inflammatory (but don’t take one pre-race!) and then wait a few days—ideally three to five—before you head in to see your masseuse.
Is there anything specific you should be eating post-race?
It is important to know that the sooner you can get nutrition in post-race, the better it is for your body. Corkum recommends having some chocolate milk at the finish line, which will especially help those runners who tend to feel nauseated at the finish line. For runners who like to go out and celebrate their race with a big meal—don’t feel like you need to pass on the tradition—just be smart about what you choose. “I am an advocate for going out to a put and getting a burger, fries and beer,” adds Corkum. ‘Though you will want something like Gatorade and water, too, this meal gives your body a little bit of everything.” You will get proteins, fats, carbs and a little bit of hydration, which you may not get from going out for a meal like pizza. So be sure to fuel a bit at the finish line before going out and enjoying a celebratory meal with your cheer squad.
What is most important to have in your checked bag?
In your checked bag, be sure to include something for refueling. “You may have to wait a long time to get out of the athlete’s village and it may be awhile before you can get out for a larger meal.” Corkum packs a protein powder and a shaker to use with the water she is given at the finish line. Within 10 minutes of crossing the finish line, you can get 200-300 calories of protein in to start the rebuilding process, to feel better, faster.