Recovery is often the most over-looked aspect of training; however, it is one of the most important. Most often athletes tend to focus on pre-race prep (do I have my water, gels, body glide, race bib etc) and once they reach the finish line you MAYBE do a little stretching before it’s out for breakfast tacos. Recovery starts the minute you slow the pace and hit stop on your Garmin, so the sooner you take action, the faster the healing starts.
Recovery after a competition involves not only the normalization and repair of tissue, but also general relaxation and mental calming. Loosening constricted tissues will restore balance to your muscles and increase blood circulation, which enables proper transport of oxygen and nutrients to tissue cells. Increased lymphatic flow helps to eliminate waste products that cause soreness and inflammation, and will promote faster recovery time by lengthening and stretching the muscles to increase range of motion and flexibility. So basically…the sooner you are on the massage table the better!
Here are few easy tips to help you start your recovery in the event you are not able to get a massage immediately.
1) Cool down: Allow your heart rate to slow down a bit before you hop back in your car. After you cross that finish line start taking deeper breathes to start to help calm the body by taking in more oxygen.
2) Pack a yoga mat: Once you’re done with your race take a few minutes to stretch out your entire body. Your legs are not the only part of your body working. A quick top to bottom stretch routine takes less than 10 minutes and helps to lengthen your muscles. During training season, keep a mat in your gear bin in your car. This will help remind you to stretch before you head home.
3) Nutrition & Re-hydration: Immediate replacement of water, carbohydrates and proteins maximizes the effectiveness of your training and should be done with 30 minutes of completing your race. If you are new to racing there will be some trial and error as there is not a "one size fits all" rule for nutrition recovery. Be patient and if you have questions seek assistance and advice from a professional.
4) Schedule your RECOVERY MASSAGE and talk with your therapist about a maintenance program for your next race. Massage should be looked as a training tool not a luxury. Addressing tiny aches and pains as they occur will nip injuries in the bud before they develop into something that takes you out for the season.