How To Recover from Extreme Obstacle Races

Written by Sean Hassett, PT, DPT at Athletico

You just ran 12 miles, but this was not your typical 12 mile run. This was 12 miles of running up and down hills, climbing up and over walls, hanging on for dear life at some point, jumping over logs, carrying logs, plunging in for a deep cold ice bath, and of course getting really muddy. You have just completed a Mud Run and Obstacle Race and now part of the Mudder Legion. Congratulations!

At the end of the race such as Tough Mudder, you have received your headband, your 285588_2313406235164_6268155_nT-shirt saying you survived, and had your celebratory beer (21 and older) with your fellow Mudders, now what? It is time to start the recovery process as this is not your normal race. It is recommended to keep your body moving. Walk around to check out the other festivities and music that is usually going on at these events. This will help your body cool down appropriately and help prevent immediate stiffness and soreness. In the next 30-minutes, it is best to take in a recovery drink. The best type of recovery drink is one that contains both carbohydrates and protein. There are many of them out there, but some good old-fashioned low fat chocolate milk works great! The carbohydrates help restore the glycogen stores that have been depleted during the race and the protein helps the rebuilding phase of the muscles you just worked to the max.

As the day comes to an end, prior to getting into your car, you need to do two things. First, get some light stretching of your legs and arms in as these were used throughout the race. This should take you between 8-10 minutes.  If you have one of your mud buddies nearby, help each other out. Stretching will help with some of the post-race soreness that may occur.  Second, change your clothes because no one wants wet and dirty clothes on their interior, especially if it is not your car. Besides, on the way home, you do not want to be sitting there feeling like swamp and end up sick because of it.

When you get home you are going to want to follow the RICE method if you are feeling some soreness. Rest and do not go out to your favorite late night place. If you must go out, keep it low key and let your body recover. Ice as this will help constrict the blood flow to those sore areas and help reduce inflammation and soreness that may be felt. If you feel up to it, you can always take a second ice bath as you likely already took one during the race. Compression of the legs and arms will help flush out the lactic acid, as will the ice, and make your muscles feel loved by hugging them. Wearing compression gear will work great for this. Elevate your legs as you lie in bed thinking about how awesome and tough you looked carrying that log around. In the following days, you will likely feel soreness because of this new experience.

Expect DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in a 1-2 day period after the race. To help reduce the significance of this, continue to eat and drink well with the proper nutrients. It is also suggested to keep active with light stretching and walking around. Treat yourself to a massage at one of your local Athletico facilities where the massage therapist understands what your body just went through and will help it recover. If there is continued soreness and pain or you feel something may be injured, stop in at your local Athletico for a free complimentary injury screen.

Otherwise, congratulate yourself and reflect on what you accomplished because it is an awesome feeling – I know. After some self-reflecting and recovery time, start the process of preparing yourself for the next race where you will beat your previous time. Mudder Up!