You spent months training for your goal race. You shed some blood (RIP, toenails), a whole lot of sweat, and yes, a few tears along the way. But all good things come to an end – including training plans. For some, waking up the day after a big race feels amazing. You can sleep in! You’re free! You don’t have to schedule your day around your training, recovering, and nonstop eating! For others, though, the post-race blues are very real, and going through life without a plan can feel empty, overwhelming, or confusing.
Jess Underhill, running coach and founder of Race Pace Wellness, gets it. She’s been coaching runners for more than 18 years, and has run countless races – including the Boston Marathon – herself. Read on for her best advice about tackling the important but often overlooked post-race training plan.
You’ll probably feel more recovered than you actually are
You may feel ready to run or ride again just a few days after your big race. But proceed with caution. “The physiological stress from, say, running a marathon lasts longer than the feelings of soreness will,” says Underhill.
That’s why it’s crucial to plan your recovery instead of just going by feel. Going by feel matters, of course – your plan may suggest running a week after the race but you may have residual pain that needs to subside, in which case definitely listen to your body – but having a loosely structured plan can help you prioritize your recovery.
Consider creating a two-week post-race recovery plan
“It’s just as important for runners to have a post-race plan as it is at any other time during the training season,” says Underhill. She prescribes a two-week recovery plan for her runners, which includes zero running and active recovery beginning the day after the race. “Week one activities are simple and easy,” she says. “They include 30-minute walks with lots of foam rolling and dynamic stretching, restorative yoga sessions, and lots of rest days. During week two, the schedule usually includes one or two workouts on the bike or elliptical to encourage recovery and make sure the runner isn’t overdoing it too soon, in addition to an easy yoga class or two and additional rest days.”
Don’t feel guilty for sitting on the couch – but don’t completely avoid physical activity
Although Underhill likes to get her athletes moving soon after the race to help work out the lactic acid the body accumulated during the race, she’s also an advocate for working rest into the mix. “You can begin active recovery the day after a big race,” she says. “In fact, most people will feel better if they go for a walk and do some gentle foam rolling and stretching. But don’t do any hard workouts for a minimum of two weeks.” If you do include active rest, make sure it’s actually rest. “Don’t go to a 90-minute spin class and call it rest just because it’s not a 20-mile run,” she says.
It’s OK to feel bummed after a big race
It’s totally normal to feel lost after following a training plan for so long. “But just because you aren’t working toward a big goal doesn’t mean you don’t have to have a plan,” says Underhill. “After taking a break and giving yourself time to do whatever workouts you want to do – or don’t want to do – create a weekly workout schedule that’s fun and not super strict. Having a schedule to follow will help you feel more grounded.”
Indulge in a whole lot of self-care – then get to work
Now is the time to get a massage – then it’s time to figure out how you can come back stronger. “After you’ve recovered, identify any weaknesses or muscle imbalances that you’ve accumulated during the season, and get to work on those,” says Underhill. “Hire a coach, physical therapist, massage therapist, or registered dietitian to help you come up with a plan to correct these things during the off-season. You’ll have more time to devote to these things when you aren’t running for three hours every weekend!”
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.