Smart Running: A Guide to Recovery
Whether it is your first 5k or your 50th, knowing how to recover is an important part of being a smart runner. The significance of recovery is usually overlooked because of all the time spent focusing on training and preparation. You must take care of your body post-race in order to prevent injury and pursue future running goals.
The Important Cool Down
One of the first things you should do once crossing the finish line is to cool down. Your body needs time for your heart rate to come down to pre-exercise level and your muscles time to cool down. One of the best ways to cool down is jogging at a slower pace for five to 10 minutes. After you stop running, you should loosely stretch your muscles, avoiding anything excessive. You just need enough to soothe your legs and release the lactic acid build up. According to an article posted by Livestrong, this post-race care can help you prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness.
Hydrate & Replenish
After you cool down and hydrate, you should focus on replenishing the calories that were expended during your run. While you may not have burned a ton of calories running a 5k, you should still replace those that were lost. You should focus on snacks that provide energy replenishment, so fruit would be a great option. Most races provide fruit for runners at the finish line so do your research in case you need to bring something. In the article 5k Race Recovery, a glucose based sports drink is suggested to replace any lost electrolytes through sweat. Also, few hours later you should eat a more substantial meal including complex carbohydrates or low fat protein.
The final thing to remember after running a 5k is to allow plenty of time for rest and relaxation. Depending on how your body feels, you may be able to go for an easy run a day or two after your race. As stated by World Running, active recovery is a great way of speeding up the recovery process and getting the blood flowing back to tired muscles. Take your workouts slow until at the end of the week you are able to resume your normal running schedule. After you have fully recovered, consider what future running goals you want to set for yourself. You could even begin to mix in some weight training to strengthen the major muscles groups in your legs to help reduce the risk injury for the next race.
According to a recent study published by Runner’s World UK, new research indicates your quad strength should just about equal your hamstring strength to improve your performance. Whether it’s improving your 5k time or registering for an even longer race, challenge yourself but include the recovery steps as part of the training regimen for success.