How to Recover After Running a Half Marathon

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Spring is in the air, which also means, many spring races are too! After you’ve trained hard, run the race of your dreams, it’s now time for the next step: Recovery.

Many athletes believe recovery means do absolutely nothing, eat as much junk as possible, and sit and watch TV. Yes, you can get away with that for a few days, but eventually, you will have to make a few changes.

The recovery period gets a bad rep. Many runners feel as though they “must be training for something”, but recovery is just as essential as training. Without proper rest and recovery between training cycles, you will get injured or burned out.

So how do you recover from a half marathon?

Right after you cross the finish line:

Step 1: Keep moving!

Walk around or even do a very slow easy jog. This allows your legs to cool down while also preventing cramping. You won’t go from “racing hard” to completely stopped. There have been many races, I have just finished and those are always the races that take me longer to recover from.

Step 2: Hydrate

After the race make sure to sip a beverage with electrolytes. Water is excellent, however, something with sugar and calories is better. Sports drinks such as Gatorade, juice, chocolate milk, are great options. Most things are better than nothing.

Step 3: Eat

After you’ve cooled down and hydrated, it’s important to eat something. It’s hard to find ana endurance race that doesn’t provide some sort of post-race snack.

It doesn’t have to be fancy: You might even choose to bring your own nutrition. Just eat something! Your muscles will recover much faster if you are able to get nutrition into your body within an hour of crossing the finish line.

My personal recommendation is that right after the race is not the time to try something new. Your stomach has been going crazy during the race, and adding something that you’re not used to isn’t wise.

During the next week:

Get a massage:

Getting a massage will help loosen up muscles and help you recover faster. After my goal races, I try to get a massage to loosen everything up.

Don’t forget: Recovery from every race is different

First, recovery from a half marathon or marathon takes much longer than recovery from a 5k. Full rest will always benefit someone, but that doesn’t mean you have to take complete rest for weeks or months.

Every race has a different and unique recovery plan. Even races of the same distance are different. For instance, some half marathons I’ve bounced back extremely quickly while others it has taken me a few weeks. Recovery is based on several factors including:

  • Distance
  • Fitness level
  • Training (For instance, did you train hard for it or were you undertrained?)
  • Weather and climate
  • Outside and unpredictable variables

The outside factors sometimes play the most significant role. It’s important to listen to your body and not jump into training again too quickly. When you jump back in or are “always training for something,” you are much more susceptible to injury.

Something I always find fascinating and exciting, is that elite athletes take their recovery very seriously. Most elite athletes take two weeks off from running.

For two weeks after a race, or at a strategic time during the year they don’t run, workout or do anything active. They take true rest! It decreases the chance of burnout and injury.

So let us know: What are a few ways you recover quickly?

Hollie Sick is an avid runner who’s completed more than 40 half marathons. Read her blog, or follow her on Facebook.

1 comment… add one
  • Carol May 7, 2018, 3:27 pm

    You are SO RIGHT !!!!!!!!
    It’s TRUE … A couple of weeks off from running is the key to a smart recovery !
    Also, it’s very easy to say …. hard to do it.
    I’m one of those who’s always training for something … and I usually forget the important things, THANKS A LOT for reminding me!!!
    Loved your article!

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