During my time as a runner, I have limped my way into work after a few major races. My coworkers are always curious as to why I continue running, and I often ask myself the same thing the week after race-day. It took a lot of time to discover that the majority of my injuries were caused from a bad post-race strategy. Here is what I learned:
1. Proper Nutrition and Hydration
"YES, I finished the race, where is the beer tent!?" It is so easy to finish your race and celebrate a hard earned PR with the free drink ticket. Often times we forget that we had just finished an exhausting body stimulation, and our bodies are desperately pleading for water, electrolytes, carbs, and proteins. Before you hit the beer tent, take your time polishing off a banana and a water. There is nothing wrong with the beer afterwards, but remember that alcohol dehydrates the body, and can inflame an injury if you feel one popping up.
2. RICE RICE Baby
Speaking of post-run pains.. If you feel your knees or your ankles hurting or swelling after the race, immediately ice that portion of the body. It is important to decrease blood flow with R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compress, and elevate). The next day, if you still feel the pain, it is more than okay to take some Aleve as a pain-reliever and anti-inflammatory.
3. Pinpoint Exact Pain and Strengthen for the Next Race
A lot of injuries are caused from a lack of muscle strength in a specific area. If you are experiencing a sever pain after the race, I would highly recommend checking out a local Athletico or your personal coach to have them find the root cause of the pain. They shoudl be able to offer you some recovery stretches and exercises to prevent future injuries in that part of the body.
4. Proper Post-Race Stretch
Even if you don't feel any pain, your muscles will be craving a good stretch after the hard run. You don't want to allow your muscles to cool down without properly stretching. I recommend hitting the main muscle groups here during your stretch: the calves, quads, glutes, lower-back, and hip-flexors, See these stretches from a previous Instagram Post, but keep in mind that this was meant for a pre-training run, not a post race, so extend these stretches up to 30 seconds each.
5. Rest.. A lot
One of my favorite parts of race day is the quality of sleep during the next few days. Your body will be requiring a lot of rest, so it is safe to plan for 8 hours of sleep the next night! A lack of sleep will drastically reduce your recovery process.
These are some of the top ways to prevent future injuries after your next race!