Tips for the Trail – Recovering from Races – Xterra – 4-15-2011

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 4/15/2011

Editor’s Note: Rachel Cieslewicz traveled from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Las Vegas last week and won the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run. In her latest entry on tips for trail runners, she offers advice on recovering from such race travels.

For many athletes, race season means spending a lot of time preparing for, traveling to, and competing in events. Some of us may find ourselves racing many weekends in a row, or even multiple events in one weekend.

What we learn over time is that our ability to recover is just as important as our training and preparation for the big event.  In general, we know to rest, ice, eat well, rehydrate, and stretch post-race.

Adding travel can make it a bit more complicated. Here are some tips to make recovering from travel and racing the best experience ever!

Recovery from travel starts before you leave your home. Traveling to your event without complications will equate to a great race as well as better post race recovery.

When flying to a race we are often limited to what we can take.  Make a list of items you can’t live without. Include things such as government identification, USAT or USATF cards, race foods you may not find at your destination, race belt, shorts/pants, tops, visor, socks, GPS watch or other device, maps and addresses, sunglasses, towel, extra cash, etc. Having a written list makes it easier to pack. Leaving for a trip can be stressful, and even the clearest of minds can forget essentials, so don’t wait until the last minute. Remember if you are only taking carry-on luggage, TSA is mean about their liquids.

If driving to your event, a list is still great. I would add to it a small cooler for post race hydration/ice, etc. It is also nice to have a few smaller bags inside a larger duffel bag. This way you can have all of your race day items in one bag, post-race and other items in others.  Then you don’t have to dump everything out all over the dirt or on someone else’s stuff each time you are looking for something.  It is great to have the extra bags for post race stinky clothes as well! If you have the space, I would also add a foam roller for pre and post event.

Once the fun of a race is over, it is important to take care of yourself. Hydrate and replenish calories according to your needs. A brisk walk or slow run for 10 to 15 minutes, followed by gentle stretching is especially important if you will be racing again soon. The reason for this is it gives the body a chance to slow down without sending it into shock, and blood will circulate better to rejuvenate tired muscles. At your next meal following a race, be sure to eat good proteins and fats, and hydrate fully for proper replenishment of body stores and to keep metabolism high.

If possible, sit in a cold creek or other body of water shortly after the race, or take an ice bath for 5 to 10 minutes. This will cause vasoconstriction of the blood vessels. Upon leaving the water, the vessels will reopen sending a rush of fresh blood to rejuvenate muscles for a faster recovery.  Wearing compression tights such as CW-X stability tights will also aid by increasing circulation and providing muscular support.  I always wear them traveling and sleep wearing them post race.

If driving or flying home that day, stretch gently before and after sitting. Make sure you are properly hydrated. If staying the night, stretch before bed and foam roll if possible, especially if you have another event the following day.

When all is said and done, recovery times can vary. I like to do an active recovery workout the following day, such as going for a walk on my bike — if that makes sense! A slow jog or walk, swim or yoga are also fabulous forms of active recovery.  Massage is my other best friend.  Get one from a great sports therapist. This will help recovery and injury prevention immensely! Trust me, it is way more fun to pay for a massage and feel awesome then to get injured and have to pay a lot more to your local doc and watch your friends race.

If my event was a half-marathon or shorter, I will typically resume training for my next race after one day of active recovery. If the race took a lot out of me, I may take up to 3 days very easy or completely off.  The key to a full season of races is racing hard and recovering well. Find a rhythm that works for your recovery and you will enjoy a season of fun health and fitness, running faster than you ever dreamed.