Now, I’ve said “race” in the title but this applies to any sort of event that you’ve trained for, really. We put so much into training and prepping for the bloody thing that we completely neglect to brace ourselves for the onslaught of the post-race blues…the fourth trimester of the sporting world, if you like. It’s all about the race recovery, babe.
So I’ve been talking to my good friend Emma at Island Living 365 about this. She did the London Moonwalk in May, then a month later she did the rather hellish sounding Island Walk on Jersey. That’s 48.1 miles of left, right, left, plod, stumble, plod along cliff paths. Crazy lady! She told me that she’d been feeling distinctly “meh” in the days following the walk, and physically very drained. I said I knew exactly how she felt, and in some ways it’s akin to labour – the level of exertion and endurance is SO high that afterwards, your entire body feels like it’s been placed between two planks of wood and stamped on.
We don’t give enough thought towards our recovery, in my opinion. And I don’t just mean the physical aspect: the mental anguish, for want of a better word, is just as important to address. When I completed my most recent half marathon in April, I was jubilant for the remainder of the day and then in tears for most of the following week. I’d ran it well, I was fairly pleased with my time, so what was wrong with me? I couldn’t put my finger on it.
So I’ve been thinking, as I’m oft prone to doing. Here are some of my top tips for bouncing back from a biggie.
1. Make whatever you’re doing count, in the first place.
I was in a gym class recently and we’d all started to flag a bit (remember the early June heatwave?!). The instructor said to us “Ok, there are a hundred different things that you could be doing tonight, but you chose to come here instead. So fucking crack on and make it count”. Wise words, no? If you’re running a race, walking a long walk, or competing in an event, then you’ve probably trained hard for it. Chances are you’ve paid to be there, too. Trust me – it’ll help your recovery no end if you give it your all – you owe yourself nothing less than your best.
2. Take time to reflect.
Analyse. Reminisce. Search for the hashtags on Instagram and stalk people who completed the same event as you. Scrutinise your sweaty post-race shot. Post something on your Facebook page about how proud you are of yourself. Think about what you loved, and what you perhaps didn’t love – and use those “pain points” as targets to address. Work it back through in your head. You invested in it – let that carry on for a while afterwards, keep investing.
3. Respect your body.
You’ve just put yourself through an immense physical ordeal – you’ve taken it to the limit and your adrenaline would have been surging. Not to mention your muscles – they’re probably screaming! So now, you need to refuel and rest. You need carbs, protein, and major rehydration. Then you need a sodding good sleep, on a cloud of Deep Heat fumes.
4. Eat right.
As I mentioned just now, refuelling is key after you’ve just depleted your body’s resources. I think protein is absolutely crucial for the repair of muscle tissue and further growth. According to science (because science), 20g is the amount of protein you need to take on as part of your post-race meal. So we’re talking a chicken breast, or a generous portion of cottage cheese, three or four sardines, or a few big dollops of natural yoghurt. Come on though, who wants bloody yoghurt after a race? It’s all about the pie or roast dinner.
5. Work out sensibly. I said sensibly.
Don’t be a stubborn old toad, like me. 24 hours after my half marathon, I half hopped and half limped to the gym for an Abs class. As I was laying on the mat doing sweaty scissor kicks, the instructor stood over me. “I saw you running yesterday! What the hell are you doing here?” At which point my left calf cramped up and I writhed around on the floor like a harpooned jellyfish. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” I gasped, ramming my nails into my thigh to try and divert the pain. “But I might skip the treadmill after this.” I didn’t skip the treadmill, I was a silly girl and everyone told me as much.
6. Prepare to weep.
This bugger can creep up out of nowhere. A couple of days after the aforementioned half, my husband phoned me on his lunchbreak. “Hiya. Having a good day?” he asked innocently. “No – no I’m really really not and I don’t know what’s wrong and I can’t stop crying and I just want to go to bed.” Totally normal. Well, maybe not to my dramatic extent – but it’s the body releasing emotional tension…all that anticipation has to dissipate somewhere. It’s horrible. But it passes. And do you know how it passes? Well…
7. You book another race, that’s how.
Yeah you do! Strike while the iron’s hot. Sometimes, in your finisher’s goodie bag, you’ll get a discount code for another upcoming event. Use it. Do it. There’s nothing better than knowing you have something else lined up, a few weeks or months down the line. Once you’ve had your recovery period, it’ll help you to re-engage with your training mentality and get you back in the proverbial saddle. With the benefit of hindsight, you might decide to approach the next race differently, run it harder, or adopt a new strategy for your training sessions.
There we go! I hope you find these useful…if you have any to add, I’d love to hear from you.
-SJW July 2017