The best way to recover from a race is to follow a training program with a good mileage base leading up to the race – which is why you joined the Squad! If you raced your event without adequate preparation you will soon discover that you suffer both during and after it.
There are various theories on how long it will take you to recover. It will of course depend on how fit you were going into the race. You will find that for the next few weeks or months you will not be able to run quite as hard as you did leading up to the race. That’s normal! Give yourself a break, you need to recover, so take it easy.
The First Days After the Race
You’ll find that after the race, you will be sore, tired and even feel a bit depressed. This is perfectly normal, so don’t stress about it. Your sore muscles are more than likely due to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) – due to small tears in the muscles. It will heal, just give it some time. One of the best things you can do is to get out for a light run as soon as you can move faster than walking pace. Don’t go too far, just 2-3km, if that. Build up the distance over the next few weeks. If you feel too sore or stiff to run, go for a walk, bike ride or swim. If you don't have any joint pain, a long soak in the bath will be nice.
Eat whatever you like, you deserve it. You will be tired, take it easy and go to bed early.
After the race you may feel depressed. Especially if you’ve had a really good race. Now is not the time to make any decisions on when your next big race is going to be. There will be plenty of time to work that out later. For now, work out what worked and what didn’t. Review your training diary to see what worked well for you and try to pick out any mistakes.
The Weeks After the Race
Slowly build up your runs over the weeks following the race. Set a new goal, if you have not done so already. This will get you motivated to get moving again. As you’ve by now replenished your muscle glycogen reserves, you may feel stronger again, but you’ll soon discover that when you try to do a hard session such as intervals or hills, you will struggle to perform at your pre-race pace. Don’t do too much, just take it easy for a few weeks.
Don’t despair, you will come through it and get stronger again. Don’t do too much too quickly, give your body time to recover first. You will also discover that the ‘time on your legs’ will carry you a long way for the rest of the season in terms of endurance. You will not need to train as hard to achieve the a similar or bigger goal.
Write about your experiences
It’s a great idea to do a race report after your event. Include photos too. It’s a wonderful account of what you did and how you felt during the event. But more importantly, it will provide you with some insights when you come back to do the same race in the years to come. And you can send the report through to the race organisers, who may even publish it for you.