Recovery After A Half Marathon

Happy Monday morning!

In looking at my social media feeds this past weekend and even last weekend, I noticed a lot of folks completing half marathons. Yesterday I was thrilled to see so many people I know completing the NYRR Fred Lebow half marathon. The weather in NYC was perfect for a half marathon and I am hoping a lot of people achieved personal records!

There is no question that when you set out to conquer a half marathon, especially if it’s your first, adrenalin and euphoria will push you to achieve wonderful things. Running a half marathon is no easy feat and while some may think it’s something they can’t do, hard work and motivation will push you to the finish line along with the adrenalin and euphoria I mentioned before. But what about after the race? What about when your medal is hung and there are no more crowds, cow bells clanging or music playing? When it’s just you, and your sore muscles?

sorelegs

Just complete a half martathon? Listen to your muscles!

Since today is the day after a big half marathon here son New York City, I thought I would post some suggestions about half marathon recovery.

  • Hydrate and rest– Sure you drank a lot before the race and during the race but your body will still needs to replenish its liquids. You lost slot of your electrolytes during that half marathon. Therefore look for liquids that contain a lot of electrolytes. Gatorade and coconut water are perfect for this. Also, try to increase your fruit and vegetable intake, you will need the potassium that they provide. Further, your first day after a half marathon should be about rest. Unless you are an experienced runner, avoid running the first couple of days after. Your body needs to recover from the impact of 13.1 miles.
  • Diet.During these important next couple of days you will need to have a well balanced diet to fully replenish the nutrients you lost during the race. Meals that includes a healthy balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and monounsaturated fats are ideal after the in the days after a race. I like to go with roasted salmon with quinoa and garlic mashed potatoes. Coincidently, I like this before a race too! (lol) A little Greek food is always a plus for me. I enjoy some pork kabobs with cherry tomatoes and onions and a lemon cucumber dressing with rice.
foamrolling

Foam rolling is a great way to help sore muscles recover!

  • Listen to your muscles. There is no question that there will be sore muscles to deal with. Whether it’s your hamstrings, quads or calves, spoil them rotten the next couple of days. Ice them. Invest in a foam roller and massage your muscles. If you don’t want to invest in a foam roller, get a friend or loved one to simply use their hands. If you want to splurge, seek out a sports therapist or a masseuse for a deep tissue massage. Do any of the above that suits you but please don’t sit there and let your muscles ache!
  • Walk but don’t run. While running the day after is not recommended because of the impact on your legs, do go for a walk to stretch the muscles and get the blood flowing.
  • Need more to stay active? I understand that some of you just don’t like the couch or that your body just needs a workout as a mental escape from it all. I’m kind of like that myself! (lol) Go ahead and cross train in the first few days after a half marathon if you must. But if you do. work muscles you didn’t use in your half marathon. Stick to upper body work or something that is low impact on your legs. I find yoga can aide in flexibility right after a half or full marathon. Also if you can gain access to a pool, running or walking in a pool is really helpful. Cool water helps muscles recover and there is zero impact on your legs in the pool.
  • Running again I know, you just crushed a half marathon and you want to run again. I would hold off on any running until about day 3 after your race. If you recall in the last week or 2 before your half marathon, most people tapered their miles and ran less. If you were training at 10-13 miles, you reduced your runs to much less mileage. Well now after your half, my approach is to “reverse taper“. Go very short on your first run. 2-3 miles is ideal. As you progress over the next two weeks, keep “reverse tapering” and increase your mileage to 4-5 miles then 6-7 miles until you are back in your routine. The idea is to ease your legs back into the running routine while they recover.

Keep in mind that the above are just suggested ideas that can help you recover after a half marathon. These have worked for me in the past as well as others I know. Thankfully, I have never seen any long term effects of injury after a half marathon. However if you have pain, not just soreness, after your half marathon, seek a professional doctor’s advice. In a couple of weeks it is normal to have soreness but definitely not pain. The most important thing is to listen to your body and respond to it with the appropriate treatment. I cannot stress how important this is.

But lets think positive! If all goes well and you recover well and get back into running, don’t be afraid to put that next race on your calendar! Remember complacency can work against you. If you are pleased with your first half marathon results, make a goal to run faster and most importantly a smarter race. We can always improve. Challenge yourself, because the challenges you present yourself will reward you. Comfort never rewarded anyone!

Congratulations to everyone out there that recently completed a half or a full marathon!

Don’t be afraid to plan for your next big race!