Deciding to transition away from pounding pavement and heading onto the trails can be a difficult decision, but most runners find it a rewarding experience.
Proper recovery is important for beginners and advanced runners, as it helps keep our bodies and muscles stay ready for the next hard effort. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know what to do, especially if you’re relatively new to distance trail running.
Stretch… or Yoga
After crossing the finish line, walk for a couple minutes and lightly stretch before sitting down to relax. Stretch your arms, legs, and back and slowly walk around the finish line area. There should be a particular focus on tired muscles and anything that bothered you during the race.
Some events have post-race massages (free or paid service), which is a great way to also break up lactic acid and relax.
The First 15 Minutes
Immediately following your race, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind: food, fluids, and warmth. Drink some water and a recovery drink (like the Accelerade 4:1 Recovery Drink) and eat some food – a bagel and a little bit of fruit perhaps.
After your body warms down from your hard effort, it’s a great idea to change into dry clothes, so you are less likely to get sick.
There are a couple of different techniques for recovery baths and it depends on your pain threshold and desired comfort level. An ice bath might be uncomfortable and difficult to sit through for 10 minutes, but it greatly helps accelerate recovery time for your sore legs.
If you aren’t willing to get into a tub full of cold water and ice cubes, then mixing Epsom salt into the bath can aid in post-race recovery.
Take a Nap
Not only does it feel good to take a nap after a hard physical effort, but it’s good for your muscles to continue the recovery process without interruption. If you take a nap for 20-30 minutes within 2-4 hours of eating, your body is able to better absorb the fluids and nutrients consumed.
Recovery Workout… but don’t Over Exert
The day after a hard trail effort, get out of bed – or off the couch – and go walk around the neighborhood or go for a light spin on the bike. This helps loosen up your legs and stretch them out, though you want to be careful not to get carried away and put in a hard effort that will lead to additional soreness or injury.
You can take some anti-inflammatory drugs after a hard physical effort, but wait until you’ve eaten and topped off your fluid levels. Anti-inflammatory products should aid in reducing muscle inflammation along with any type of soreness and pain but be sure not to overdo it. Of course – follow the recommendations from your physician.
You will need to test different recovery techniques and see which one works best for you, and don’t be afraid to mix it up. Remember, it’s great to get out there and explore the trails, but you need to ensure you’re taking the right steps to recover properly so you can stay out there.