There are few things in the running world that let you know you have had a successfully hard day of racing like sore leg muscles.
You put yourself out there, pushed to the limit, and came out the other side with nothing worse than some seriously sore legs. (And you know by now that said soreness has nothing to do with lactic acid, right?)
Of course, now it hurts to go down a flight of stairs, the act of sitting down on the toilet immediately bring tears to your eyes, and you can’t wait until your legs will allow you to walk without a limp again.
While there isn’t anything you can do to instantly make the soreness go away, there are definitely a several tricks you can employ to help expedite your recovery after a race so you can get back to training for whatever is next on your calendar.
Ways to Speed Up the Post Race Recovery Process
- Ice Bath: Sitting in your bath tub with a bunch of ice and cold water may not sound like the most enjoyable 20 minutes of your life, but it works wonders. The cold temps (aim for 55° F/13 C or so) help to cut down on the body’s inflammatory response to the damage you’ve done to your muscles which expedites the recovery process. Inflammation is natural, but your body has to clear the inflammation before the cellular damage can be healed. If you minimize the amount of inflammation, you make that process a bit easier.
- Compression Socks/Sleeves/Pants: Compression gear has been shown to speed up the recovery process by helping to improve your veinous return. After a race, you’ll likely have excess blood/fluid in and around the muscles of your legs. By using some compression gear, you help to push those fluids back toward your core and out of the muscles which helps to reduce the residual soreness.
- Elevation: Don’t want to spring for compression gear? Gravity works too. Lay down, get your feet above the level of your heart, and let gravity do its thing.
- Light Massage: After your race, a light massage can help to stimulate circulation to the muscles which will help to promote veinous return as well as bring fresh blood to the muscles which your body can use to expedite the recovery process. Just be careful that the massage isn’t too intense, especially right after your race, because that increased blood flow can actually INCREASE the amount of inflammation that you’re experiencing. A good massage therapist will know what to do, but this isn’t the time to jump on your foam roller and go to town. Save that torture device for at least 2-3 days after the run.
- Keep Moving: After running hard for 2-4 hours, you probably just want to collapse onto the couch to watch movies and eat ice cream, right? Or is that just me? Anyway, if you want to minimize your soreness and speed up the recovery process continuing to move around after your race is a good idea. You don’t need to go crazy, but walking, cycling, or swimming are all great ways help “workout” the soreness.
- Hydrate Up: A post run beer is delicious, I’ll give you that. But if you’re serious about speeding up the recovery process, limit the suds (or skip them altogether) and turn to H2O instead. A well hydrated body is way better at taking care of itself than a dehydrated one, and after a hard race you’re most likely in a state of dehydration. So water up!
- Healthy Eating: You know what goes well with that post race beer? Post race junk food, obviously! You “earned” those calories, right? Look, I’m not going to shame you for indulging when it comes to food after a race, but if a quick recovery is your goal skip the typical post race junk and stick to real foods. Grab a green smoothie, some fruit, or other real food options to refuel your body instead bagels, doughnuts, or other processed foods. You might have to go out of your way to find the better options because they aren’t as likely to be readily available at the finish line, but your recovery time will be quicker if you stick to the healthy food choices.
And remember, none of these options are a “miracle cure”.
The only thing that will ultimately make the post race soreness go away is time.
If you ran your race hard, you’re going to be sore for a few days (or longer) after the race. And that’s ok.
It’s your body’s way of saying to take it easy for a bit so it can recovery properly before you get back to training.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with trying to speed up the healing process a little bit, and these suggestions are all things that I’ve found very helpful to me over my “career” as a runner.
I know lots of runners swear by other options though, so if there’s something else that you find particularly useful when it comes to speeding up the recovery process after a race, please share it in the comments below!
What Is Your Favorite Means of Speeding Up the Recovery Process After a Hard Run/Race?