Taking on, and recovering from, my first SwimRun

Whew! That was a long race (3km of swimming and 18.4km of running to be exact). As I sit here 36 hours post-race nursing my sore muscles, I figured I would share my recovery tips post-event that help us get back in the lake or on the trails sooner rather than later.

Firstly, recovery from any event is variable – it depends on the intensity of the race, the elements, your health, and the training season. However, all of the tips below can be applied to a multitude of athletes; from your marathoners, couch to 5k athletes and weekend warriors.

1. Keep it moving!

Cross the finish line, take a picture and keep walking. Although your first instinct may be to collapse on the couch and binge watch Netflix until you feel like rolling over again- that isn’t necessarily the best way to go. Upon finishing your body is still in race mode and requires a transition period to return back to its baseline levels. 

Oxygen is used by our body post-exercise to help recovery. It replaces ATP (body’s energy source) used during the workout. It helps restore body temperatures to resting levels. And it works with protein to repair muscle tissue damaged during the event. We can help us this process a little by simply pacing back and forth or walking 10-15 minutes post-race to avoid muscle spasms, and fatigue.

2. Eat, drink, and celebrate

Now that you’ve had some time to cool down it’s time to refuel and rehydrate. Eat a small snack within the first 30 to 60 minutes post-race. Drink plenty of fluids to offset dehydration and save the big meal for later in the day when your appetite returns, and you can enjoy that celebration. The time immediately after the race is more about getting in about 200 to 300 easily-digestible calories from carbohydrates and protein to maintain blood sugar levels.

3. Chill out!

If possible, soak in a cold water or ice bath for five to 10 minutes this can aid in decreasing inflammation in your legs and speed the rate of healing. 

4.  Stretch it out!

Wait at least two to six hours after the race to stretch and foam roll and 24 hours for an intense or full body massage. This allows your muscles time to replenish fluids and energy lost and recover from the demands of the race. My three favourite stretches target 3 of your major leg muscles used during running: quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.

5. Crash out

The most underrated form of recovery is a good night’s sleep post-race. While you’re fast asleep your body is still hard at work healing itself, repairing muscle damage and continuing to move toxins out of your body.

6. Be patient

Ultimately time is a huge component when it comes to recovery and the intensity level of the race you completed helps dictate the amount of time needed for recovery. 

In summary

Although the evidence is varied with the above tips, there are various research studies that support the above for quicker return to function, decreased stiffness and soreness and better muscle function. If you have questions, are struggling with injuries, or just unsure about the speed of your recovery, we are happy to book an appointment with you and help you recover and work on your performance goals

As for me, until I reach full recovery- I am going to go jump back on my foam roller. Until the next race! 

Brandon Warren leaps across the finish line at SwimRunVictoria.

Further reading

Abaïdia AE, Lamblin J, Delecroix B, Leduc C, McCall A, Nédélec M, Dupont G (2016) Recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage: cold water immersion versus whole body cryotherapy. Int J Sports Physiol Perform.

E. and Bahr, R. (2003). Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Medicine, 33, 14, 1037-1060

Burke, L. M., Millet, G., & Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2007). Nutrition for distance events. Journal of Sports Sciences, 25(S1), S29-S38.

Petersen, K., Hansen, C. B., Aagaard, P., & Madsen, K. (2007). Muscle mechanical characteristics in fatigue and recovery from a marathon race in highly trained runners. European journal of applied physiology, 101(3), 385-396.

LaForgia, J., Withers, R. and Gore, C. (2006). Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Sport Sciences,24, 12, 1247-1264.Sands, W. A., McNeal, J. R., Murray, S. R., Ramsey, M. W., Sato, K., Mizuguchi, S., & Stone, M. H. (2013). Stretching and its effects on recovery: a review. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 35(5), 30-36.

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Posted by Brandon Warren, MScPT, BScKin