After your race, don't just stop running. It's important for your muscles to cool down. Your cool down could simply be walking for five to 10 minutes or a slow run for a mile or two.
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Whichever you choose, it'll help get the lactic acid out of your muscles, prevent your muscles from tightening, and also keep the blood flowing through your system to help with muscle repair.
After the walk or slow run, some light stretching will help as well. Don't stretch too vigorously—just enough to sooth your muscles. If you happen to have a massage stick or foam roller, take the time to roll out your muscles. Or give your legs a massage.
You may not have burned a ton of calories, but you still need to make sure you replace the calories you lost. You won't need a lot, so look for things at the race that have extra nutrients such as oranges or bananas.
You may also want to pack your favorite energy bar to help refuel after your race. Be careful you don't overeat. Just because you finished the race doesn't mean you can eat like a king (or queen).
More: What to Eat Before a 5K
No matter what your speed was, you need to make sure you hydrate after your race. Replacing the fluids you lost is essential to help prevent any headaches, and muscle cramping.
The Day After
The day after your 5K, go for a short, easy-paced run. This will help get the blood flowing through your system to aid in muscle repair. A short run can also help to alleviate any aches you may feel.
If your quads or calves are particularly sore, ice them down. Icing can help reduce the pain and inflammation in your aching muscles. Also, don't hesitate to foam roll or massage again. Even if they're sore, your muscles will appreciate the massage.
The Week After
What about the rest of the week? If your 5K was on a Sunday, Monday would be your recovery run. Here's what the rest of the week should look like:
- Tuesday: Rest
- Wednesday: A normal, average run. Not too fast, not too long.
- Thursday: If you're up for it, back to speed work.
- Friday: Resume your normal running schedule.
- Saturday: Register for another race.
More: 10 Steps to Tackle a 10KSign up for your next race.