You cross the finish, all those weeks and months of training paid off as you soak in the euphoria of reaching your goal. You’ve accomplished something special and you should be proud! Take time to mindfully take it in, but soon you should start thinking of your recovery. You’ve put your mind and body through a lot, they got you to the end, it’s time to repay that effort with a little TLC!
So let’s start with your poor body, what have you gone and done to it?! Depending on the size of the challenge you took on you could be facing anything from just general stiffness and fatigue to blister-ridden feet or even serious injury that you’ve pushed on through…
One of the toughest bits of advice to follow is to keep moving. By all means you deserve a day or two sat around on the sofa , wearing your medal binging on Netflix but the less you move the longer recovery will take. You need to keep getting fresh blood to those muscles, keep stretching and even getting a few gentle recovery gym sessions in.
Yoga, pilates, swimming, frankly anything that gets you moving in a stress free relaxed manner is perfect. You can use warmth for stiffness, but any significant swelling should be treated with cold. Believe it or not cold baths can be recommended for significant swelling if you can handle one! Bottom line, keep moving and keep stretching.
As you start to get mobility back you may find some stubborn pains or even some suspected injuries. Don’t be afraid to seek help early. Finding a good physiotherapist was one of the best things to happen to me. Two or three days after your event is a good amount of time to leave before a session, as the injury will have settled slightly yet be fresh enough to for the therapist to work on and prescribe the right ongoing exercises and care.
During your training your body needs good fuel to heal and rebuild. Unlike what many nutritionists would have you believe this is not a mystical formula. Similar to your diet leading up the event you should be refuelling with complex carbs (In other words, NOT sugars). Wholemeal rice & pastas, potatoes, beans, lentils… all good options.
Alongside your carb refuelling you should be upping the protein for muscle repair; don’t worry too much about fats as chances are you burned off some serious fat reserves, yet try and keep to the healthier side of things (Although to be honest I can often be found post event with my head buried in a burger).
Also listen to your own body. I’ve more then once had cravings, salts, carbs, even sugars and it’s worth listening to your body (Note listen to your body, NOT your inner child that wants pizza and ice cream every day!).
Finally lots of water, keep hydrated and flushing out a lot of the byproducts that’ll be floating around your system. No need to ‘detox’, your organs have been doing that fine for themselves for quite some time. Plenty of water is all they need to help them along.
It’s that simple, don’t be drawn in to fads or heavily disciplined recovery diets. By all means some supplements may help but unless you’re competing at a high level, using some common sense is all that’s really needed.
If this is your first event this element may catch you off guard. We focus on the physical however the mental stresses are often much harder to recover from. You could be experiencing sleep deprivation, isolation if participating alone, or the sudden come down from an emotional high. The mental aspect of the lead up to, partaking in, and recovering from any significant event should not be overlooked.
Try and be prepared for these feelings before your event. Knowing it’s normal can give you a little grounding so you’re not swept up in the feelings later. Reach out to others who have experienced this and they will empathise for sure. Try to avoid becoming secluded or too introspective, share your feelings and try and embrace them.
Many people move on quickly and set their next goals to get that next buzz, others take a break from that activity and turn their energies to something else. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for you, but most importantly don’t think it’s just you feeling this way. We almost all do to some extent.
Underlining all of this is patience. Have patience with both your body and mind. We all take different amounts of time to get over such stresses. Don’t feel bad if you happen to take longer then your peers. Both mind and body can suffer from fatigue for days, weeks, sometimes even months afterwards. Energy levels may feel like they’ve returned but push too hard and you quickly hit a wall or feel drained faster then normal.
Don’t expect too much from yourself too quickly. You achieved something amazing, together your mind and body got you there, just give back with a little time and mindfulness and you’ll soon be crossing that next finish line!