Events recovery tips

Recovery is an interesting topic that attracts a lot of attention, usually focussed narrowly on either the nutrition or the musculoskeletal aspect.

I will try to quickly get you through main aspects and then you can get into any details by yourself.

It is a very basic summary, as the topic is too broad to be described in one short article.


How well you recover today basically will determine how quickly and effectively you can start exercising again, and ultimately it will affect how you will feel and perform at the next event.

  1. Rehydration

The longer your race, and the warmer the conditions, it is essential to rehydrate as soon as possible. However, you can get dehydrated even in subzero temperatures. When you exercise your body produces a lot of heat, so sweating is the way for our systems to get into “normal”. Drinking enough during the race is just not physically possible. In order to function normally, lack of fluids needs to be covered as soon as possible but most likely you will be feeling it for the next few days.  A mild headache is a sign of dehydration. Do not forget: coffee and tea would not hydrate you but would in fact make things worse, so for every coffee you have after exercises you need to drink a good glass of water.

  1. Refilling your glycogen stores

Again, it is a broad topic and cannot be covered in few sentences, but bottom line is that during intense exercising you use glycogen which is stored in your skeletal muscles, liver and a bit in blood. If you were exercising on over than 50-60% of your VO2 (which is most likely you were while racing), only glycogen can fuel your exercises. Your glycogen storage purely depends on your training routine. Fat is used for fuel too but only when you go for a long time and drop the pace.  Basically, it means that after exercising (and during of course) you need to eat, and carbs is the go (but good carbs).


  1. Muscles recovery

Feel your legs the next day after a good race? This is it. Pain perceived during and after exercise is considered to result from a combination of factors including acids, ions, proteins, and hormones.

Your muscle tissues got some damage, which is not a bad thing: as soon it recovers, you will get stronger. As simple as that. Recent studies proved that ice baths or cold water do not contribute to reducing inflammation. (

However, there are no debates about whether your muscles need to rest after that workout – you need to get rid of lactic acid. A 10 min warm down is highly advisable after the race if you can do that. If you can’t, just bear in mind that —until your muscles have recovered— there is no point to damage them further. Any tremendous efforts will not do any good for your already tired and sore muscles. Let them rest and then go out and push yourself again. It does not mean you have to avoid all sorts of exercising, but let that particular muscular group rest, and focus on stretching.


  1. Cardio-Vascular system recovery

Your heart is the main pump which pushes your blood to make sure oxygen is delivered to the working muscles so that prolonged physical work can be maintained. Of course, given the workout it gets after you run/ride/paddle as fast as you can for a few hours, it’s not surprising that it would take a bit more effort than normal to get going the next day. To make complex subject simple let just accept the fact that your heart needs some rest too. Until your morning heart rate is back to its normal digits there is no place for hard anaerobic sessions. Harder and longer you pushed more time is required for recovery.

  1. Mental Recovery

Disregarding whether you came at the top or mid of the field, you still pushed yourself quite hard. Everyone is different but the available amount of “pushing yourself out of your comfort zone” is limited for all, and most likely you got a bit exhausted here too. Some need a day or two to get back to normal, while others need a bit longer “relaxing” and stress-free time. If you’re already planning your next event, you might want to consider a small break. I had some years with racing almost every weekend and it never ended up well if too many events are in a row. You just can’t push yourself hard too often.

Now practice:

  1. Sleep. Go to bed as early as you can. The physiological value of sleep before midnight is much higher than late morning sleep. This is the best recovery tool really.
  2. Drink a lot of water.
  3. Eat wholesome food. Fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, meat, fish, eggs, etc. Do not skip meals — breakfast in particular.
  4. Listen to your body. If you’re not feeling like doing a hard session soon after the race, skip it. Do an easy jog, ride. There is no universal recipe here but after 3+ hours of race you need at least 48 hours of downtime.
  5. Go for a walk. Active recovery is ideal. Even if your legs are very sore, a couple of kilometres will improve your blood circulation, fill your body with oxygen - all just benefits.
  6. Medium compression garments showed some benefits for recovery.
  7. Swimming is great for recovery and jump into the sauna for a few minutes afterwards. Whatever you do, don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
  8. Stretch. Your muscles need stretching.
  9. Massage is perfect if you can fit it in.