Editor’s note: This post originally appeared here in May 2015. With summer racing in full swing, this article — and reader tips — will give you great ideas for recovering smart. Happy summer running, everyone! ~MRG
In the final weeks of training for my last marathon, my right knee grew cranky. A few days of ice and rest, along with a visit to my go-to deep-tissue sports massage guy, helped get me through the remaining miles before race day. And on race day itself, my knee cooperated, thankfully. Still, I knew it needed rest following weeks of high mileage and speed work, much of which took place on snow-covered roads. The entire lower half of my body needed rest, actually, given Boston Marathon’s late-in-the-race hills.
My legs were toast. Mentally, I was just as spent. I was on a high from the race experience, and proud of my efforts throughout those grueling 26.2 miles, but I also was weary. Tired. Probably a little overloaded and exhausted.
I eyed the month of May, filled with tons of family and kid commitments — end-of-school year fun! — but zero “must-run” days, and I got a little giddy. The pressure (I put on myself) was off. I could take time to rest, physically and mentally, because I wasn’t gearing up for a Big Race. I could pull out my road bike and enjoy miles without my feet pounding the ground. I would re-connect with friends, over lunch, during easy runs, on the bike trail.
Just as training smart is essential to a successful race, recovering right afterward is important. I’ve learned this the hard way, having returned to running and training hard for another race too quickly in the past. For me, doing this led to injury, and honestly, becoming burned out. This time around, however, I’ve made a concerted effort to take it slow and easy.
Cross training has included road biking as well as a few other things: enjoying the early-evening sun on Spider Lake while on my stand-up paddle board; continuing my twice-weekly Pilates sessions; and taking an afternoon to use an ElliptiGO followed by a deep-tissue massage at nearby Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. It was cool trying the ElliptiGO — a new-to-me kind of bike — and the massage that followed my trek around the beautiful Resort grounds was incredible. For 50 minutes I felt my muscles and mind relax beneath the masseuse’s skillful kneading. And afterward, wrapped in one of the coziest robes I’ve ever worn, I enjoyed several serene moments in the spa’s “relaxation room,” sipping water and simply sitting back with my eyes closed before re-entering the world of work deadlines and track practice and dinner prep. It was heavenly.
Combined, all these recovery activities soothed my sore muscles in all the right ways, as well as helped bring me back to center mentally. I’m convinced that this approach also prepared me well for last weekend’s North Mitten Half Marathon, a race that was so much fun not only because it was mostly trails but because I was in the right frame of mind and had been treating my body well.
I’m far from the only one who has discovered ideal ways to recover following a big race. When I asked readers of the Michigan Runner Girl monthly newsletter to submit tips and ideas, MANY helpful responses arrived in my inbox (thanks, guys!). Keep reading to read what works for your fellow Michigan runners…
“Post-big event I do more of the opposite sport. I run and bike, so if it was a running event, cycle more that following week and do a run without checking my pace. Just run to enjoy the run. Also: foam roll and take in extra fluids.” – Rebecca Farmer, Waterford
“How do I mentally and physically recover after a race? I don’t do a ton of long distance races because I have horrible knees, but when I do, a nice Epsom salt bath and if I can’t get my husband to massage me, I turn to the foam roller. When I’m feeling up to it, I’ll start with walking and then slowly add my runs in again.” – Kelly James, Wayne
“I am actually very proud of my recent race recovery also … After my previous races I always get a horrible headache that lasts at least two days in addition to the aches and pains. This time I knew that I would be tagging along with my fiancé’s sister while she shops for wedding dresses. So once my race was over, I collected all of the snacks and went back to the car. On the way back, I drank three bottles worth of water and ate a banana and half of a power bar. Once we were back, I took a shower and laid down to rest. After relaxing for 30 minutes I was ready to go shopping with no headache! I was so happy that I have learned what my body needs right after the race and it rewarded me by allowing me to watch her try on the dresses!” – Lindsay Branton, Auburn Hills (she ran this month’s Fifth Third Bank River Bank Run 25K in Grand Rapids and says she was concerned about finishing in the alloted time — “but I made it!!” Congratulations, Lindsay!)
“My best recovery plan starts before the marathon itself. I meet with a sports masseuse/therapist to get stretched out and work out any last-minute kinks. My recovery time went from 4-5 days to ONE day, and that’s only with one session (I went three days before my marathon). I was up and walking around a museum and weekend festivals the day after my marathon in April (Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon). If that’s too late to do, then I recommend picking another race after the marathon. The post-marathon blues hit me hard and knowing I had another race to prepare for kept me focused and knocked me out of my funk.” – Liz Stomski, Lansing
“Deep-tissue massage by someone who knows what they are doing is awesome. Totally different massage and until you have a good one you have no idea you are being jipped prior. I love to hit hot yoga for a couple weeks after a big race as well. Helps to stretch and loosen the tight muscles. And it’s a judgement-free zone so I feel the need to move different or just lay there it’s a-okay.” – Tracy Harrison, Vicksburg
“Yoga is my #1 go-to after a race. It gets my body stretched out, relaxes me and strengthens me all in one. A nice nap coupled with a massage also helps.” – Kelly Onusko, Plymouth
“I give myself a few days to just veg. And I indulge my sweet tooth as well! Once my toes and feet feel better, I book an appointment for a pedicure which makes my feet feel so refreshed and rejuvenated – and look so darn cute again just in time for warmer spring weather! I also love that moment when both my mind and body want to run for the pure love of running and I can escape for a leisurely 4 mile run down some of our gorgeous Michigan trails.” – Jill Eastman, Kalamazoo
“Lots of hot tub time, slow walks with my kids, pedicures, trips to the chiropractor and if I’m really lucky, a massage!” – Rebecca Ballinger, Wixom. (“I’m scheduling mine NOW before I even start training for Chicago in the fall,” she adds.)
How do you recover after crossing the finish line?
Have you tried an ElliptiGO? If so, what did you think?