Recovering from a big race is both a physical and mental challenge. While our body is fatigued from a strong effort our mind is also exhausted from months of training and planning for the event. The return to training is an important process that can set us up for great racing ahead, or set us up for failure. The following tips will help to ensure your success:
Reverse Taper: In the two or three weeks following a major race it is ideal to plan our training as a "reverse taper". That means that we should slowly return to normal training mileage. Week #1 after a race is going to be as light in training as the taper week leading up to the race. This gradual build will enable the body to recover adequately before fully returning to higher mileage and speedwork.
Take Care of the Details: As we approach a big race many of us are careful to monitor our nutrition, hydration, rest, and overall health in order to guarantee that our body is in optimal condition on race day. After the race we often disregard details to stay up late catching up on all of the television we have missed for months, we enjoy all of the sweets we have avoided during training, and we neglect our hydration. In fact, recovery is the time when our bodies most need our tender loving care. It is our job to create an ideal environment as our muscles work to repair and rebuild. Eating right, sleeping well, hydrating, stretching, and massage are all great ways to create this perfect environment.
Create a Plan: It is normal to feel a bit lost after a race. We have spent months training towards a specific goal. Whether the race went well or wasn't spectacular, we are now left with a fatigued body and no specific goal in site. This is an important time to create a plan. The plan should include a reverse taper and then follow with a base building period to set us up for your future goals and races. Write out a plan with specific mileage, training paces, and timelines. For some great suggestions check out the following sites:
Change it Up: The post race return to action is an ideal time to add in cross training activities. We may even consider trying a new fitness activity that has seemed intriguing in the past. This will be a great way to keep things interesting and will be a valuable change mentally as well as physically.
Stay Mentally Strong: The physical effects of a hard race and intense training cycle are expected. However, many of us fail to anticipate the mental challenge that we will face following a big race. Even a successful race can leave us in a state of "post-race depression". The combination of fatigue and lack of direction in training can result in an unsettling mental state. Setting your next training goal and utilizing the above guidelines will help, but do not feel alone if you feel a bit down after your big event. Be patient with yourself throughout your return.
Keep yourself busy with new challenges and goals and you will find yourself back in strong physical and mental action soon.