Half Marathon Recovery Guide: 7 Tips to Recover Faster
You did it! After months of diligent training, you finally completed your first half marathon. Now what?
Completing a half marathon is no easy feat, and it’s essential to care for your hard-working body properly. Now is the time to rest, repair, and regroup before you set out on your next big challenge.
Follow these 7 essential steps after your race to ensure that your body will be up to your next big running feat.
1. Immediately after the race
Your body is at its most vulnerable immediately after crossing the finish line. Take a minute to clear your mind and bask in the glory of your accomplishment. Once the brief celebration is complete, you need to shift into half-marathon recovery mode.
The first thing you need to do is replenish lost glycogen stores, electrolytes and water. If you can, weigh yourself before and after the race. The weight you lost immediately after the race can indicate how much water you lost and how much water you need to drink. To hydrate properly, stick to straight water rather than sugary sports drinks.
It’s also essential to refuel your body with food after the race. Want a greasy cheeseburger or a beer? Go for it! However, in the days the follow, be sure to fuel your body with good nutrition such as higher protein levels, good carbs and plenty of fruits and veggies.
2. Treating DOMS
You have pushed your body to its limits, so sore muscles are inevitable. The key to treating muscle soreness is to give them time to heal. For the first few days after a race, it’s best to hang up your running shoes a few days as all of those microtears in your muscles start to heal.
Foam rollers or massage guns are great tools to help expedite the healing process and provide much-needed relief. Hold the massage gun or foam roller on especially tight muscle groups for at least 30 seconds, and then release. Repeat this foam rolling cycle as often as needed.
3. Indulge in a bit of self-care
Your body worked hard for you, and now it’s time to treat it to a little TLC. The next day after the race, be sure to turn off your alarm clock and sleep in, or go to bed a little earlier than usual. Getting enough sleep is just as important as proper nutrition.
Epsom salt baths are another great tool to ease tight muscles and melt away stress. The weeks leading up to the race are incredibly stressful, and nothing beats a warm bath with Epsom salts. These salts are composed of magnesium and sulfate, and the warm water helps these minerals absorb into your skin to boost recovery.
If you can, a good massage is also a great way to treat your tired body after a big race. Be sure to wait at least two days after the race before jumping on that massage table.
Your body needs time to flush out waste and lactic acid before you can reap the full benefits of a massage.
4. Eat right
When you cross that finish line, there are no rules on what you can eat. Indulge in hamburgers, french fries, cake, or even beer – you earned it! After the celebration is over, it’s essential to keep your body fueled with the right foods.
Foods like wild meat (rich in protein, iron, zinc, and lower in fat), fruits, veggies, and eggs are excellent foods to help boost recovery.
The most crucial thing in post-race recovery is to fuel your body with nutrition that will help it quickly build back better.
5. Take a short break from running
The general rule is to take one day off per race-day mile. If you run a half-marathon, this means hanging up those running shoes for at least 13 days! While you may lose a little bit of endurance and strength in those two weeks, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
When you run on tired and broken down muscles, you risk injuring yourself if you get back out there too soon. While taking 13 days off may seem like a lot, there are many other ways to keep active while taking it easy on your joints.
Joint-friendly cardio machines like stationary bikes and ellipticals are great for active recovery, and peppering in a little bit of yoga and dynamic stretching can go a long way.
6. Take it slow
Once you have successfully recovered after two weeks, it’s important to ease back into a running schedule. You may feel tempted to pick up where you left off, but it’s essential to take it slow to build back stronger.
Your first few runs after that initial recovery period should be low and slow. Start with a few easy runs at a reasonable pace to gauge how your body feels.
Once you have eased back into the running pool, you can slowly build upon your new foundation and add a little bit of speed work or longer distances to your training plan.
7. Consider an off-season
If your race did a real number on your body and mind, taking an off-season may be worth consideration. After months of half marathon training, taking an off-season is a great way to work on base training and give your body a much-needed break.
Use this time to build a better base so that when you start to train for another race, you are stronger than ever!
There are plenty of ways to build strength and endurance without putting miles behind you. Give your treadmill a bit of a break and instead give machines such as stationary bikes, ellipticals, rowing machines, and stair climbers a try. These machines will help boost your endurance and build strength while taking it easy on your joints.
An off-season is also a great time to fit in some weight training, strength training and cross training. Workouts such as CrossFit are a great way to build stronger muscles in your lower body and core while boosting your endurance.
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