I’ve made many mistakes as an athlete.
You name it, I’ve f*cked it up at one time or another and paid the price.
With over 50,000 runners lining up to run in the Singapore Marathon this coming weekend, it’s a time of year that I witness others making a lot of unnecessary mistakes.
Race execution mistakes aside (there will literally be thousands), it’s common to see a lot of careless mistakes being made in the hours and weeks following an important race.
While this obviously has no negative effect on the race just completed, it can play a big role in your recovery and the preparation and execution of your next race.
In today’s post, I am sharing 4 common mistakes that I see athletes making after an important race. I hope that you’ll take note and make smarter decisions following your next marathon or important race.
Mistake 1: Not Refuelling Properly
Running a marathon burns a lot of energy. Duh!
This means that as soon as you cross the finish line of a race, you need to begin thinking about refuelling to replace the energy you have lost.
The body has a small window for optimal nutrient absorption, so you want to make sure you capitalise on that by getting in a mix of carbohydrates and proteins.
Think of refuelling in two parts.
- Energy, nutrients etc
When your sweat losses are high, it’s important that you begin to hydrate properly soon after finishing the race.
I typically recommend a 500ml (16oz) bottle or two of Precision Hydration’s PH 1500 to drink in the first few hours of finishing your race. This mix of water and sodium helps to restore your body’s equilibrium in a short space of time.
Energy, Nutrients etc
Within 30 minutes of finishing your race, you want to take in 100-300 calories as a mix of carbohydrate and protein.
Carbohydrates are needed to replace muscle glycogen while protein helps to produce muscle building amino acids and hormones. Too much protein, however, will inhibit your body’s absorption of the carbohydrates so you need to be mindful here.
Aim for a ratio somewhere in the range of 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein.
Following that initial post-race window to take in nutrients, you want to eat again between 1 – 3 hours following the finish of your race. During this meal, you want to take in a higher amount of protein along with carbohydrates and healthy fat.
This will help to decrease inflammation, increase muscle glycogen stores, and rebuild damaged muscle tissue.
Mistake 2: Being Too Sedentary
Although it’s tempting to sit around in the afternoon and days following a marathon, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to keep moving.
Low intensity, easy movement helps to keep the blood flowing and facilitates the removal of byproducts that are produced during the race.
As two-time SEA Games marathon champion, Soh Rui Yong says:
“I go for light walks to keep the blood flowing in the 2 weeks after a Marathon just to help blood circulation and promote recovery, despite how sore I might feel. No running though!”
Like Rui, I suggest you are proactive in your recovery. Aim to move about the house regularly and get out for easy walks in the days following your race.
Mistake 3: Training Too Soon After A Race
While light movement is crucial in your recovery process, starting to train again too soon after a race can be a disaster.
Racing, particularly long races like the marathon, places a tremendous amount of stress on your body. Your joints take a pounding, muscles get damaged, glycogen stores deplete and immune function is compromised.
Basically, your body takes a beating.
Rather than jumping right back into training, you need to be progressive and allow for sufficient recovery.
I suggest taking at least 7-days completely off running. From day 4 onwards, you can introduce some light ‘training’ in the form of cross training.
Easy cycling or a light swim are good options and help to supply oxygen-rich blood to damaged muscle tissue.
After 7-days, you can begin to ease back into some light running if you want to. Begin with 20 – 30 minutes of easy jogging, and alternate running days with off days for the next 7 days.
Gradually increase your duration as you begin to feel better throughout the week but do not rush your progress. It’s important to note that you should not exceed 60 minutes of running before day 14.
After 2-weeks, you can begin to ease back into a more structured programme again.
Monitoring your heart rate can be useful here to ensure you are not building your training too quickly.
Mistake 4: Racing Too Soon
I know you LOVE to race. I am sure Eliud Kipchoge does too. But here’s the thing.
Eliud Kipchoge, the world’s greatest marathoner and world record holder only runs 2 – 3 marathons a year, max!
Because marathons are incredibly hard on the body and running too many them or any other race, compromises his ability to perform at the highest level when it matters.
He carefully plans his season and training in advance to get the best from himself each time he toes the starting line.
You may never run as fast as Eliud, but there is no reason you can’t follow his blueprint for success. Rather than doing every race that comes along, I encourage you to be careful in your race planning and allow for adequate recovery time between big races.
It’ll help you to race better when you do line up and it will contribute to the maintenance of good health, something that I believe should be a priority for all amateur athletes.
Mistakes Don’t Have To Be Made
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to learn from the mistakes of others. I’ve made all these mistakes (and many more) at one time or another and I share them so you don’t have to.
If you want to recover quickly from your next big race and you want to perform consistently across your season, apply the lessons here and you’ll be well on your way.