Advice, Guides & Inspiration

A simple guide to sports recovery

By Genny Owen
4 min 40 sec read

Tackling her first marathon this year, she’s done all the legwork so you don’t have to.

Chances are that all your hard work will have paid off and you’ll be reliving an epic race day experience! You’ve definitely earned a rest but rather than just stopping short in your tracks, it’s important that you put a bit of thought into your post race recovery.  

Pre and race day plans to ensure you’re in tip-top shape are well documented. However post race recovery is often secondary and under-looked. As a beginner, if you’ve done your homework and put in a decent amount of training, your body should be well prepped for what’s in store on race day. As a result, hopefully you shouldn’t be too stiff or sore and your recovery time minimal. Longer, more intense runs warrant more recovery, but it’s still a vital part of anyone’s training cycle. The recovery process gives your body the time to rest, attend to any aches or pains and reboot so that you feel energised and hopefully little by little, stronger each time round. These few little tips and tricks that we’re going to share can have huge impacts on the speed of your recovery so it’s well worth taking a moment to implement them.

The recovery process….

Whilst you might cross the finish line and breath a huge sigh of relief that you’ve smashed your run, it’s important not to just stop suddenly. First things first, keep moving for a good 5-10 minutes post race to cool down and ease up. It might also be tempting to head straight to the pub for a celebratory drink (which is totally legit!), but remember it’ll dehydrate you even further so make sure you drink lots of water to stay hydrated and eat a small carb focused snack to replace all that you’ve used up whilst running. By all means, celebrate your epic achievement, but drink in moderation!

The day after your race, take a well-earned rest if you want it. Have a lie in or longer sleep than normal if you can, or head for a yummy brunch as a treat to refuel. Having said that, exercise encourages circulation, supplying fresh nutrients and oxygen to your muscles, thereby aiding their recovery. So, if you’re like me and not very good at ‘doing nothing’, you might find that some form of gentle exercise as active recovery like a light walk, yoga or pilates helps. If you have any aches or pains, ice may also help suppress inflammation.

All being well, a couple of days after your race you should be fine to ease yourself back into running. Do a little test run and see how you feel. If something still aches though, opt for a different type of exercise with lower impact on your body. A little cycle or swim are great examples, easing up the pressure on your joints, allowing them to recover, whilst also keeping your fitness levels ticking along. It’s also important to maintain a balanced diet and drink lots of water to ensure you’re doing everything you can to help your body get what it needs to recover quickly. As ever, listen to your body and it’s cues and don’t forget that thirst can often be mistaken for hunger.

After a week (or less) of rest and lower level exercise, your body should have had plenty of time to recover. Hopefully you should feel ready and raring to go and can return to training as normal. However, if you still don’t feel right, don’t push it or stubbornly ignore any signs of injury. If necessary, go seek expert help to nip it in the bud, as doing nothing may exacerbate the injury and leave you on the sidelines for longer.

Post race recovery is also a good time to think about your next challenge and goals. Perhaps you did a 5k and now want to aim for a 10k? Or maybe you want to shave a couple of minutes off your time? Whatever your next goal is, no matter how big or small, those few days rest are a great time to look back on your race, maybe think about what you can do to improve or what you want to aim for next and plan ahead. Either way, hopefully you’ll have caught the running bug and be excited to get back out running and find your next challenge!

Get gear

2XU Womens Recovery Tights and 2XU Men’s Recovery Tights – They might be pricey but these leggings are worth every penny! Specially designed, they apply gentle pressure and boost circulation to support the recovery and repair of your muscles.   

Natures Kiss Recovery – If you’re a fan of deep heat and it’s funny tingly sensation then this might be for you. A cream to gently massage into any aching muscles to assist their recovery. Super soothing and smells great too.

Trigger Point Grid Foam Roller

Say hello to the foam roller, your new best friend! These are great to release any tight muscles or knots. It’s essentially the most cost effective massage you’ll ever invest in!

Get inspired

Feeling a bit flat after your big race? Finding it hard to get motivated again? Well why not join a ParkRun. It’s a great way to meet new, like-minded people who can support and spur you on, helping you to find your next challenge. Parkrun organise free weekly 5km timed runs that are open to everyone. There are so many to choose from in parks across the UK.