QT: How Long Should the Post-Race Recovery Process Take (Best Of-Ish)
This post was originally part of Episode 476 released in September of 2017 and is more or less copy and pasted from that post. The audio, however, is a new take on the topic.
A lot of runners have a problem taking time off.
The circumstances rarely matter. If we are not running, many of us can’t stop thinking about when we can start running again.
Patience is a Virtue
Rest and recovery, especially after a race, isn’t one of those things where less is more.
You need to give your body enough time to recover fully after testing your limits on the roads or trails.
But how much time does that take?
That is the million dollar question.
And here’s my ten-cent answer: it depends.
There is No One-Size-Fits-All Race Recovery Window
I’ve heard a few different “theories” about how long runners should wait after their race before they start running again, but the truth of the matter is that there is no timeframe that is universal for all runners.
Shoot, the amount of recovery time you will need to take after every race that you run is probably going to be different for every race that you run!
Because there are so many variables at play!
How long the race was, how hard you raced, the quality of your training leading up to the race, and a whole host of other factors each play a role in how much recovery time you need.
So for some “expert” to try to tell you that after every race of X distance you need to take Y amount of recovery time is, in the view of this expert, complete and total bullshit.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a formula that you can use to help you figure out when you’re ready to start running again…
Be Pain-Free + 3 Before Running Again
This is the formula that I use for myself, and for my coaching clients, to gauge when it’s ok to start running again after a demanding race.
Is there science behind it? A little.
But like all things when it comes to putting a good training plan together, there is as much, and maybe more, art that has to be combined with the science to make the process work properly for each person.
I’m glad you asked!
Like most things in my world, its beauty is in its simplicity.
If you’re still sore after your race, don’t run.
Once you can honestly say that you are 100% pain-free, wait 3 more days.
Then, and only then, would I recommend that you start running again.
Don’t Jump in the Deep End, Either
Waiting to be pain-free + 3 provides a pretty big window for when you can start running again.
For some, that could literally be just a handful of days.
If you really pushed your limits, it could very easily take 10 days or more.
Either way, once you are in the clear don’t just dive back into serious training.
Ease back in with some easy runs. When you’re ready to pick up the intensity a bit, ease into that as well.
Maybe start with a short tempo run and gradually move into the higher intensity speed workouts as an example.
The idea here is to almost engineer a “reverse taper”, where you build back up to your normal level of training over the course of a week or two coming out of your race.
Keep the Long View in Mind
Why wait to be pain-free + 3? Why not jump back into running as soon as possible?
You know how hard it is to wait until you’re pain-free + 3 to start running again?
If you rush the recovery process and start running again before your body is ready, your odds of getting injured go up.
And when you’re injured? Odds are the recovery process from an injury is going to be quite a bit longer than the necessary recovery after a race.
So you can either suck it up and be patient about your recovery after your race or you can be forced to not run due to injury.
The choice is yours. But as I see it, there is really only one choice.
When you fall off your goal pace, be patient as you work to catch up. #runchat Click To Tweet
How Do You Determine When You’re Ready to Start Running Again After a Race?
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