Yes, I am addicted to racing (here are 13 reasons why); however, races are extremely hard on my body. In training I don’t push myself like I do on a race course- I can run 13 training miles and feel completely fine after, but run a half marathon race and afterwards, I’m never fine. My typical post-race disposition is beyond sore, stiff, fatigued and ravenously hungry with many chafe spots and blisters to contend with. After my last race, this was certainly the case. And I have another half marathon this Saturday.
If you’re counting, that’s just 2 weeks off in between races. Since I still really want to continue my back-to-back-races obsession while still recovering smartly from my injury, I’m making it a point to be a lot more thoughtful about my recovery process, making sure I do all the things I need to in order to heal as quickly as possible, inside and out.
RECOVERY FROM THE OUTSIDE IN
Massage Envy Spa contacted me right before the SF Marathon and offered a 1 ½-hour sports massage at their Lamorinda location– the timing was perfect as I was incredibly anxious for some relief from the amazing amount of soreness I had post-race. Of course I had been stretching and icing and foam rolling on my own but none of that can compare to the work a trained massage therapist can do on your body. I’ve had massages before but never like this!
The goal of sports massage is to elongate the muscles, relieve muscle tightness, restore range of motion, and improve circulation. I asked my massage therapist when the best time to get a sports massage is and she informed me that sports massage has a cumulative effect, meaning that the benefits increase with sequential massages. Receiving just one massage after a race will not reap the same benefits as regular massage therapy will. She suggested one deep tissue massage about a week prior to a race followed by another massage one to three days after the race for ultimate recovery and maintenance.
As soon as I walked through that door, I was handed a cup of strawberry-infused water while I relaxed a bit in the tranquil Members Only room until my massage therapist was ready for me. I told her about the race, my injury, and she worked on my tight muscles as I relaxed into it- she applied a deep, hard pressure (akin to myofascial release) and I really appreciated that she kept checking with me to make sure the pressure wasn’t too great given my injury and all that chunky scar tissue. After my massage, I felt lighter than air and totally relaxed as all that race soreness was alleviated.
I was so impressed with Massage Envy Spa, their staff, and services that I signed up for their membership program in order to keep up that regular maintenance given my racing goals, recovering quicker and preventing any further injury. The need is there, the price is right, and YES I am worth it! (Thank you again, Massage Envy Spa!)
RECOVERY FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Usually, I have no appetite for about 3 hours following a race (the reason for this is that I get too hot when running, my appetite returns only when my body temperature gets back in the normal range) yet I know all running experts agree that ultimate race recovery requires real food eaten within 15-30 minutes following a run. Again, that’s usually pretty difficult for me to do but I know I have to do it in order to bounce right back so I’ve been making more of a concentrated effort to refuel the right way, every time.
Since my appetite wanes depending on the conditions of my run and it is often easier for me to drink than eat after a race, I make sure to have the fridge stocked with plenty of carb and protein heavy recovery beverages including chocolate milk and lots of green juices. Right now, my favorite recovery juice is the Mama Chia line that has tons of protein, carbs, fiber, antioxidants, and all those super-good-for-you omega 3s.
Sometimes it will take me a half hour after crossing a finish line to get through the chute and retrieve my sweats bag so if the volunteers are handing me food stuffs that don’t work for me and/or make me want to puke, having a beverage on hand that I know I like that I can sip immediately is so very essential to my recovery- hydration and nutrition in one simple package! Grab, drink, and go!
Since my tummy may reject many post-race offerings, I now check a few non-perishable snacks in my sweats bag so I have no excuses and my refueling time won’t get away from me. Good, easy to digest choices include trail mix, Luna bars, cheerios and a banana- anything that keeps, is somewhat sweet and chock-full of protein and carbs works best for me. Then, at my next “real” meal, my eating to recover plan includes a third of a plate full of carbs (rice, pasta, tortilla, potato, or bread), another third of lean protein (beef, poultry, fish, eggs), and organic fruits/vegetables for the remainder.
All that being said, if, after a race I am craving something, anything (like a hamburger as big as my head, lots and lots of beer and/or the above mentioned cheesy items shaped like triangles), I will eat it! As runners, we train hard and race harder therefore earn the right to splurge now and then- we deserve it!
Recovery is an ongoing process especially if you’re a back-to-back-racer like me. Regular body therapy and maintenance plus proper post-race nutrition work together to help repair those muscles and prepare your body for the next race. It is the constant care we must take of our bodies- inside and out- that allows us our sport and I have been diligently practicing what I preach, my recovery is going well. “How well” remains to be seen but I’ll let you know after my 22nd half marathon this Saturday! <gulp> Wish me luck!
How about you, do you follow a race recovery schedule? What do you do to recover from a race or long training run? Do you schedule a sports massage on a regular basis? If so, what are the benefits you’ve seen? Are there certain things you eat or don’t eat following a race? Do you restrict your recovery foods or indulge like some people?