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Tips for Race RecoveryTips for Race Recovery


Tips for race recovery

Whether you run a 5K or a marathon, you need to recover both physically and mentally from your hard work.

Refuelling and Rehydration

During a race, your body can deplete the glycogen (carbohydrates) stored in your muscles. The first hour after a race is critical for refueling because your muscles can more efficiently replenish glycogen stores.

Consuming foods and drinks that supply healthy carbohydrates is important, but don’t lose sight of calories. Running a 5K is a significant accomplishment, but a 150-pound female burns 359 calories running at a 10-minute-per-mile pace for 30 minutes. Grabbing chocolate milk, a nutrition bar, and a bag of pretzels after your race can easily exceed the calories you just burned. For shorter races, try a piece of fruit or a small smoothie, and follow up with a healthy and balanced meal for lunch.

Rehydration should also be a part of your recovery plan. The amount of fluid you need will vary depending on the length of your race and how hydrated you stay throughout your activity. Ideally, you would drink 20 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound you lose during the race.


Most experts agree you should take at least 1 to 3 days off from exercise after a race. Once you are ready to start exercising again, move into an active recovery phase. Return to short running distances and incorporate low-intensity activities. Age, fitness level, and race experience all affect your recovery time. Some experts recommend one day of rest for every mile run. This doesn’t have to mean complete rest. For example, if you run a half marathon, you don’t have to stop exercising for 13 days. It just may be wise to avoid jumping back into an intensive training program until your body has had sufficient time to recover.


Many people anticipate the physical recovery necessary after a race, but fewer are prepared for the mental recovery. Training takes focus and commitment. After several weeks of preparing, feeling let down and unmotivated once your runner’s high has worn off is common. As you take time to rest, begin to refocus your goals. Choose your next race, plan your training program, or pick a new activity to try. Setting new goals immediately following a race will keep you on the path to maintaining an active lifestyle.

Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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