How Do I Recover From My Race?

How Do I Recover From My Race?


Congratulations! You trained for and ran a race! Maybe it was your first, or maybe it was your 40th. It doesn’t matter the distance or how many you have run in your life, you still need to recover. So, now you’re asking yourself, “How do I recover from my race?”

In race recovery, it comes down to these three key R’s:

  1. Refuel
  2. Recover
  3. Recalibrate

Ok, so I crossed the finish line. Now what?!?! 

Cool Down & Refuel

Slow Your Body Down

First things first: do not just STOP the second you have crossed the finish line, as tempting as that may be. It is important for your body to cool down. Cooling down decreases stress on your cardiovascular system, as well as helps with muscle recovery. A light 5-10 min jog or walk after your race will help your system properly slow down. Following your cool down, you want to stretch to your comfort level to help your legs calm down following an intense bout of work. Some easy post run stretches include:

½ Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch: 1 x 8-10 5-7 sec. holds each side
Hamstring 90-90 Stretch: 1 x 8-10 each side
3-Way Calf Stretch: 1 x 5-7 each side

Re-hydrate & Refuel

Even though you have trained for this, your body just underwent a significant amount of stress and you need to build back up what you broke down during the race.The first step of post-race refueling is to re-hydrate with both an electrolyte drink of choice and water. Your body loses a lot of electrolytes while running, and it is important to replace them immediately after in order to regain balance in your body. Continue drinking water throughout the day to replace what was lost during your race. 

The second step to post-race refueling is with proper nutrition. Within about 45-60 minutes following your race, you want to ingest 15-30 grams of protein to help your muscles rebuild from the stress of the race, as well as taking in some carbohydrates (30-120 grams, depending on your own physical needs) to re-energize yourself. It is important that prior to your race while you are training to learn what your stomach can tolerate following a hard run to avoid GI upset. Many people pack some protein bars, while others find something as simple as chocolate milk to help get them started on their protein recovery plan following a race. A few hours (2-3) following the race, plan to have a nutrient rich protein- and carb-based meal to continue to replenish your body’s fuel sources. Nutrition is a foundational block for physical recovery, so plan accordingly!

Ok, so I finished my race, re-hydrated and refueled, but how do I really recover from my race??

Rest & Recovery

The next steps towards proper recovery are:

  1. Proper Sleep
  2. Active Recovery

Sleeping is one of the easiest (and cheapest) parts of recovery. Focusing on getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night (with 8 being preferred) during training, as well as following your race, will help your body shut down and use its natural systems to recover. Just a little FYI: getting less than 5 hours of sleep per night increases your chance of getting sick by 4.5 times, and getting less than 4 hours of sleep per night decreases protein synthesis (your body’s ability to rebuild itself). So, use an easy and free resource to restore your body naturally with sleep!

After you have crossed that finish line, some people are ready to be DONE, while others are itching for that next race. No matter which person you are, it is important that you dedicate time to active recovery. You need to look at the cumulative amount of time and intensity at which you have been training for your race. After you have completed your race, your body needs a break! 

Remember: Work + Rest = Success

So, depending on the length of time/intensity you have been training for your race, as well as the length/intensity of the race itself, it is important to let your body recover by taking 2-4 weeks off from running. But, I’m talking about active recovery, not just lying around on the couch. It’s okay to go for a jog every now and then, but this is a great opportunity to do some non-impact training (biking, swimming, etc.) to give your legs a break and use other forms of activity to provide some variety for your body. Using other forms of training also allows your body to develop in other ways! Bottom line: even elite athletes need to give their body a break, and you are no different!


The last step to recovering from your race is to recalibrate. Following your race is a great time to reflect on your training and adjust your approach for the next race. What went well? What didn’t go well? Was I experiencing pain or difficulty during my training? Do I think I might have an injury? Listen to our own Dr. Sydney as she reflects on her recent training and marathon experience.

Your “offseason” (time outside of directly training for a race) is a great time to address gaps in your training, and address pain or injury. Listen here as Infinity Running Company’s Coach Jack Hacket discusses injury prevention for distance runners. One of the big things that he highlights is using strength training to prevent injury and improve performance! Not to mention that it is another way to provide variety for your legs as you use your offseason to improve your running performance! 

So remember: refuel, recover, and recalibrate. With these three keys to race recovery, you should now have a solid game plan so you can confidently say “I know how to recover from my race!”

If you are unsure where to start with your race recovery and off-season preparation and planning, we can help you! We offer Free Injury Consultations, Running Physical Therapy, performance programming, and 3D running analysis to help you achieve your running goals. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you get out of pain and maximize your performance!