This article is going to be a quick guide on how to boost recovery. I’m not going to mention the typical micro tweaks you should be doing straight after the event. You can find those here: 17 recovery strategies from endurance athletes and coaches.
Instead, I want to discuss how you can get back into training shape with strategic changes to your routine. Personally, I hate to spend those days unproductively because of severe DOMS and fatigue. We’ve all been there.
So how can you recover quicker?
In my experience the first 24-48 hours is key. You need to apply a precise set of changes for your body to get back to business. Think of it just like dealing with a long haul flight, which induces stress and causes jet lag: you must hack your body and environment to put yourself back on your feet.
Endurance and OCR sport strategic recovery steps, that work for me and my clients include (in that order):
- Micro tweaks: post-race nutrition has to be on point; use of compression, elevate your feet etc. – all the items you can find in the previously mentioned article. Here are the top 3 hat help be the most:
- Cool down and post race yoga-like shake out. This means stretching every muscle group there is, because soreness and fatigue usually kicks in hours after the race, and a good flush is always helpful.
- Nap and good nights sleep. Sleep is a key to any recovery and GAINS.
- Compression (legs) and icing the niggles (painful spots, that couldn’t be classified as injuries).
- After you’ve done all the above. It’s time to book the next 48 hours to active recovery:
- Day after – easy leg flush. For me, this is usually 1/2 of the race distance at very easy aerobic pace (think <75% HR max).
- Day after – cross-training flush. Just like easy leg flush this should be done at very easy pace with an intent to flush the limbs with fresh blood.
- Daily mobility session of 45mins: foam rolling and using lacrosse ball to get rid of tight spots.
- Walking or skipping. This sounds too easy, however just like with easy leg flushes can get you back in game overnight.
- Lastly, focusing on anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants. Focusing on optimal nutrition can reduce pain and inflammation in a matter of hours. Some of the natural essentials: turmeric (curcumin extract), ginger (fresh of in caps), berries, fish or krill oils, vitamin C, leafy vegetables (salad > post-race burger) — all for the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects that won’t stunt your recovery.
And the things you should never do after a race (unless instructed by medical professional):
- Take ibuprofen, tylenol, advil and other NSAID (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These are the worst case scenario (breaking an ankle backwards) only and should be avoided. They will relieve pain and inflammation for the time being, however will do so at a big cost. It is extremely harmful to kidneys, but most importantly they delay the healing process. Basically, by taking painkillers you’ll feel better for the time being, but you’ll prolong the recovery.
- Hit the gym day after the race.
- Binge on cakes, beers and carb ‘re-load’. Just because you’ve finished a tough race, it doesn’t mean you deserve it. Of course some is ok, however too much is just asking for extra inflammation, hormone imbalance and stunted recovery.
What other strategic steps do you use to get back on track?
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