Stronger, faster, fitter 5/5: Post-race

Good recovery from an event is essential, so here are Andy Blow’s solutions to your post-race problems


Issue ID: October 2012


Now is the time to analyse your racing year, make the necessary tweaks over the winter and set yourself up for your best season ever in 2013 says Andy Blow. Part five is post-race


Good recovery from an event is essential if you want to build on one result and perform even better at your next race. Nutrition is perhaps one of the biggest factors influencing recovery from a hard race, but there can be a conflict, as food also plays a big part in the post-race reward process for many athletes. Rest and active recovery have a part to play, too, and need to be factored in. Have a think about your typical post-race routine and see if there are any suggestions here that you could adopt to make it more effective.

Poor post-race nutrition

Enjoying fish and chips, a pack of chocolate brownies or whatever is your favoured reward after a race is no bad thing. However, too much junk will lead to compromised recovery and weight gain, neither of which are particularly compatible with future success.


The main thing to do with food is set some limits. If you’re racing sprints and at it again in a week’s time, a post-race meal out might be it. But you may allow yourself a few more days’ relaxation post Ironman.
Whatever you do, a good policy is to draw a figurative line in the sand at a pre-determined point and stick to your guns when you get there, returning to good eating habits as soon as that deadline appears.

Lack of cool-down, stretching or massage

Sometimes it can be tempting to come to a complete stop at the end of a race and hang around chatting to fellow competitors before completing any sort of active recovery.


Have your support crew ready near the finish with some dry kit and change straight away, especially if the weather’s cold. Take a short walk and stretch. Grab a massage if you can. If you’re faced with a long drive home post race, share time behind the wheel with someone else. And when not driving, stretch out as much as you can. Stop frequently to stretch your legs as this will help to stop muscles seizing up.

Neglecting injuries or niggles

It’s tempting to fully switch off and simply relax post race, ignoring any sore and tight spots in muscles and joints that could lead to further, and possibly serious, injury if left unattended. Don’t!


Take a mental inventory of how you feel post race. Work up from the feet, cleaning any blisters and sores and treating with antiseptic to stop infection creeping in. Apply ice to inflamed joints and stretch all major muscle groups to feel for tight spots or small tears. If there are any niggles, see a physiotherapist or masseuse as soon as possible.

A post-race drop in motivation

This is typical after a really big or strenuous race, such as a championship or Ironman event.


As a drop-off in motivation is almost an inevitable result of training hard and peaking for a big event, the first thing you need to do is to see it coming and embrace it. Don’t worry about finding it hard to get out
and train; realise it’s normal and work around it by taking it easy and enjoying some light sessions or cross training.

Start to think about your next long-term goal and set a date in the future when you’re going to begin preparing for it. Until then, forget about any sort of goal-orientated training and get out there to simply enjoy swimming, biking and running for what they are.


Image: Delly Carr/ITU