After the ultra run – what then?
It is just after the ultra run, and you have performed a run that is longer than a marathon. You are tired, your legs are sore and you are satisfied with having performed what is a tough and long effort. What do you do then to become recovered in a good way, and as soon as possible?
It depends on the distance of the run, but the very first thing you should do after the ultra run, is to get some nutrition into your body. It does not immediately have to be so much, but you should have some nutrition within the first half hour after the finish of the race, in order to start the recovery process. If the run was going on in hot weather conditions, intake of fluid is very important. It is not so important what you drink, as long as the body’s fluid balance is recovered.
During ultra runs you do not always want to drink or eat at the end of the race. Then it is even more important to drink and eat just after the race. Therefore, many organisers of long runs offer food and drink to the runners just after the finish line. Don’t ignore or take this too easy. Use the necessary time, even you maybe don’t feel that you want anything just after the race. The desire for food will normally come a few hours after the finish, but the longer the run, the longer time it takes before the appetite returns.
The body needs rest and care
After the ultra run you may get the feeling that the whole body is “finished”. Take the signals from the body seriously after such runs. You have just finished pushing the body to it’s maximum, so now it really needs rest and care.
What you actually forget quite quick, is how demanding it actually was, mentally and physically, to complete such a race. After just a few days of rest, you may even feel the desire for running long runs again. You will want to once more have the fantastic feeling of having completed an extremely demanding race.
After a few days the legs start to act normal, and you will want to start training again. You may do this, but my advice is to leave the running shoes back home for some days more. Do some alternative training instead, like swimming or bicycling, possibly skiing if you live in an area where this is possible. Even you maybe feel well enough, hold back on the running. The first sessions after an ultra run should be alternative training.
The legs may feel well after some days of resting, but it may happen that your head is not yet in place. It requires a lot of you mentally to perform an ultra run. It is important to bring this with you into the next challenge. The mental surplus needs to be in place in order to perform. You build surplus by getting enough sleep and by training forces into your body, not out of it. By this I mean that the intensity should be low for a while, in order to get the body prepared and gradually be able to absorb increase of speed.
Even if the fitness level is good, you will not succeed with ultra runs if the your head works against you. If you are new to ultra running, you have to know that you have to take one step at a time. Consider your actual level as an ultra runner and increase it gradually. This is in particular important with respect to injuries. It is also important to increase gradually, if you shall maintain the pleasure of “travelling” so long distances just by the help of your own body.
Summarised: Never forget that runs longer than a marathon (42 195 meter) are very demanding. Therefore, take care of your body afterwards. Being too eager in the beginning after such an effort, may lead to downgrading of the body. You can actually train yourself down, to a lower level than before. In addition to this, the probability of injuries increases if you do not listen to the signals from your body.
Read more about training for ultra running and nutrition during long runs here:
- How to train for ultra runs
- Nutrition during ultra runs
- Ultra running – world of experiences
- What goes on inside an ultra runner’s head?
- Shoes for ultra running
Author: Gjermund Sørstad