You've spent weeks, even months, preparing for your race, focusing on crossing the finish line under your goal time. But what about after the race?
Posted Monday, 19 February, 2001
You've finished a race, you've pushed your limits, and now you're wiped out, exhausted. All you want to do is flop down on the ground and lie there. Keep moving. You should try to walk about a mile right after the race. If nothing else, at least keep moving toward the inevitable post-race food and drink as an enticement. While it may be tempting to dive right into the festivities, do be sure to do at least a brief cooldown.
No matter what distance you've raced, try to go for an easy walk or jog of three to four miles later in the day to help stave off post-race stiffness. This goes for the marathon, too; even though you're tired, the walk will help prevent complete debilitation the next day.
In general it takes about one day to recover for every mile you have raced. After a 5K, you can resume your normal training after just three days. For a marathon, you're looking at four weeks. The idea is to give yourself a chance to recover, physically and psychologically, from the strain of the effort.
This doesn't mean that you cannot run during this time, only that you should take it easy. Walk or jog for the same number of minutes you would usually run on average days. After the allotted number of days has passed, you can ease gently back into your training program. This might also be a good time to do some cross-training and explore some other aerobic exercises.
It can be all too tempting, especially after doggedly following a training program for the big race, to become obsessive about getting back to the miles as soon as possible after a race. Don't. Give yourself some well deserved rest. If you're worried about losing conditioning and giving up the progress you made building up to the race, put those fears aside. Giving yourself a day of rest for every mile you raced will not cause you to lose much ground. In fact, shortchanging your recovery could result in worse performance, not better. Hang up your shoes for a few days and relax.