Half marathon recovery tips

15 May

Running a half marathon challenges and stresses the body, so it is important to take certain steps to ensure an injury-free recovery. That means electrolytes, hydration, ice, stretching, and resting! It took about 3 days for my foot injury to reveal itself after my first half marathon, so this time I wanted to be pretty careful about my post-race recovery. I found some great tips that I’d like to pass along.

  1. As soon as you cross the finish line, keep moving! Do some easy walking to keep the blood flowing in your legs.
  2. Within a few minutes, consume sports drink or a recovery shake to increase blood sugar and replenish electrolytes. (I drank a Designer Whey chocolate protein shake).
  3. Consume a high carb/lean protein/low fat meal 30 minutes post-race. There is a 60-90 minute window where the body is most receptive to fuel absorption (whoops, didn’t eat lunch for a couple of hours). Eat carb-rich foods for the next couple of days.
  4. Continue to drink water throughout the day/days following the race. Do the “pee test” – if your urine is pale yellow, you’re adequately hydrated!
  5. Soak your body in a cold tub within 2 hours after the race (I didn’t do this, but I did ice sore joints later).
  6. Schedule a massage after 24-48 hours (I have one scheduled Friday!). Too soon can cause more muscle soreness.
  7. Take a nap 20 minutes after your post-race meal. This is one of those times that it’s totally OK to doze off for a while after eating.
  8. Pay attention to aches and pains. Most aches and pains subside 48-72 hours post-race. If they stick around for a week or more, consult a physical therapist or doctor. Better safe than sorry!
  9. Take a week off from running. The general rule of thumb is to take one day for each mile in which you run very easy and do not race.
  10. Cross-train with low impact activities such as cycling, swimming, and yoga. Keep it low intensity.
  11. In the following days, be sure to get a lot of sleep.
  12. Know your body and pay attention to what it is telling you. If you’re still hurting, give yourself more time. Just as every body is different, so is every race and recovery process!
  13. Beat the post-race blues by setting a new goal or signing up for another race a few weeks away (at any distance).

For more details, read this, this, and this.

My post-race meal was a plate of fries and a giant chef’s salad. To be honest I didn’t have much of an appetite so I mostly ate the fries and poked at the salad. I dug into it later for dinner.

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Mmm…fries.

I gave myself three full days of rest. That meant absolutely no workouts, runs, or strenuous activity (beyond cleaning the house for Mother’s Day brunch). The majority of the muscle soreness has subsided and I’m only slightly achy in some spots.

So, early this morning I went for an easy run of about 3 miles. To keep up with the Run Free for Me challenge, I went out without technology and just focused on how my body was feeling. It felt pretty good and it was nice to loosen up afterward with plenty of stretching.

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Running free!

This Saturday is our first wedding anniversary, so we are heading out of town early tomorrow morning for a romantic weekend getaway in Cape Cod. What better way to recover from a big race than to relax by the ocean with the love of your life?! We plan to do a little biking, plenty of walking, and maybe I’ll go out for a short run at least once. Maybe.

Fellow half-marathoners, what are your best tips for recovery?

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3 Responses to “Half marathon recovery tips”

  1. Diana May 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Happy Anniversary!

  2. xxjaym May 15, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    Love this list!!!

    Def gotta keep these things in mind for next time. Glad your recovery was fast, mine has been pretty good too, luckily! Last time I had joint pain for like 3 days and my muscles hurt for a full week. This time I had some pain in my joints for about 24 hrs and my muscles are almost back to 100% again already on day 4.

    I hope you enjoy your massage and your Anniversary Trip!! 🙂

  3. Amanda May 15, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    After my half, I definitely wish I had taken more time off. I ran within a few days, and my body needed another week or so to really get back to it. Don’t be afraid to take time off! Eat when you’re hungry, even if it’s every two hours, drink a ton of water, and SLEEP! I slept almost nine hours every night and still could have kept sleeping.

    Also, you probably won’t want to do anything, but you should anyway.

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