You’ve smashed the obstacles, run the loops, and jumped off the 35-foot Cliff more times than you’d like to remember: you’re done now, right? Well, not exactly. Recovery is critical after an endurance event–especially after one lasting 24 hours–and looks different for everyone. Past performances, age and medical conditions all factor into your personal recovery. That said, there are some standby rules that everyone can benefit from! Happy resting.
Following a long endurance event, your body is severely lacking in both calories and nutrients–even if you took care to fuel during your race. Though your stomach may feel queasy and your body saturated in water (literally, too, thanks to WTM’s plethora of water-based obstacles), eating post-event is vital for repairing muscle damage–especially on a course as long and rugged WTM. Look for quality food that can also aid in reducing inflammation–think healthy meats, fish, vegetables, fruit, nutrient-dense starches and spices like ginger and turmeric. Jack Hegge, ultramarathoner and physical therapist at Dynamic Physiotherapy in La Crosse, Wisconsin, likes to eat well leading up to a race to reduce post-race effects. “I’m on a high-fat, low-carb diet, so post-race soreness is usually pretty minimal.”
There won’t be much sleeping at WTM, thanks to the 2 p.m. start time, so sleeping well after the race is critical. Following her second place at WTM 2015, Sara Knight, OCR athlete and owner of Obstacle Elite in Mount Vernon, Washington, spent her time following WTM sleeping, walking, and then sleeping some more. “I would rest with my legs propped up, maybe fall asleep, walk around for a couple hours, rebandaged, and rest again,” she says. Don’t be afraid to sleep a few hours more than your typical 8 and try to sleep as deep and interrupted as possible.
While it may be tempting to hang out on the couch 24/7 after WTM, moving is vital to speeding the recovery process. Says Hegge, “I really push active recovery, whether it’s a very easy run or walk, just to get the legs moving.” Non-running activities, like cycling or swimming, can also help flush out the legs. Knight returned to work at UPS just a few days after her finish. “We have to wear workboots while loading trucks and I can remember my feet being so swollen that I couldn’t lace the boots up without pain,” she says. “It was a long three days of that as I usually walked about 5 miles per 4-hour shift at that job.” While this isn’t an ideal situation, avoiding all moment following your rest can spell disaster for recovery. As you feel your body stiffen up, spend a few minutes every day stretching and lightly employing the muscles.
Following WTM–or any long endurance race–it’s vital to rest your body, but an equally important, and often forgotten, part of recovery includes resting your mind. The stress of competition or preparing for a race as long as WTM can be draining. Avoid researching the next race to avoid mental build-up and find other activities or hobbies to enjoy with friends and family.
While it may be tempting to get back out to the next Tough Mudder, give yourself plenty of time to enjoy life outside the mud pit! Hegge prefers taking an off-season where he spends time pursuing other sports. “I usually switch over to cross-country skiing,” he says. “I still run, but not as much. I also recently started Crossfit and I’ll probably increase the frequency of that over the winter.” Knight let her body dictate her return to training. “It took about a month before I wanted to lace up running shoes and get out for a jog,” she says. Have patience with your body and your mind and savor the holiday season. After all, WTM 2017 will be waiting!