10 Tips for Recovering from a Half Marathon
Congratulations! You just finished a half marathon at a good pace and now you are looking forward to laying on the ground for a few minutes or stumbling around looking for water. Next, you will probably hop in your car and crash on your couch while binging Netflix for the next few hours. Needless to say, this is not the proper way to approach recovering from a half marathon. There are better alternatives than vegging out while watching the Tiger King.
Don’t Sit Down!
You may feel like it since you just ran quite the distance, but don’t plop down on the grass to catch your breath. Keep moving right after the race. Walk around and do a cooldown. Meet a few new race friends in the process. Your muscles need as much oxygenated blood as possible. You should keep your blood circulating through your body, and it will circulate best when you are still walking instead of lying face down in the grass.
Stretch Your Limbs
When I was younger, sitting in gym class, and the PE teacher would always make us stretch for ten minutes at the beginning of class and another ten minutes at the end, I was angry. In my mind, this was a waste of 20 minutes where we could be playing dodgeball and I could be smacking people in the head with those rubber balls.
As I grew older, and especially as I became a trainer, I finally came to the conclusion that stretching is not all that bad. Adults need to stretch after a race to keep muscles from cramping and getting sore. Furthermore, it helps maintain flexibility so you are not walking around like the Tin Man an hour after the race.
Post Race Foods You Should Eat
Everyone recommends eating a banana after a race. Of course, there is a good reason for it as a banana can help with a healthy heart and lower high blood pressure. Plus, you probably just sweated out a lot of your body’s potassium, and potassium is good for muscle relaxation among other things.
But don’t feel like you just have to stick with a banana. Greek yogurt will keep your muscles from being broken down as it will provide quite the protein punch. Oatmeal can provide you the complex carbs your body needs after a long run and replenish your energy. Cottage cheese can give you protein, calcium, and replenish your supply of sodium that you more than likely just excreted through your sweat.
A half marathon’s distance is just a little over 13 miles. I can remember my first one and thinking that 13 miles might as well be 30 miles as both seem like an awfully long run. If you are a veteran long-distance runner, this may not sound like much. But if the temperature is up and it is a muggy day out, you could easily be sweating enough that you should make rehydrating a priority for the next few days.
Just grabbing a couple of extra bottles of water right after the race will not be enough. It can take a few days to get hydrated and back on track. For instance, if you wake up in the middle of that first night to horrible leg cramps, then you should realize you are not taking in enough liquids. Also, when you take those nightly trips to the bathroom and your urine is a dark yellow color, you might want to immediately grab some water, Gatorade, or something that will get you hydrated quickly.
Take a Cold Bath
While climbing into ice water does not sound that appealing to most of us, it does reduce inflammation significantly. You may emerge with a slight shiver, but just 10 minutes or so in the cold water will help make your soreness disappear. It is always worse the first time, so start working this into your post-race routine after you have grown accustomed to it.
Give Yourself a Vacation
After a tough workout, whether it is strength training or running a half marathon, it is a good idea to give yourself a couple of days off from any sort of strenuous exercise. If you keep going day after day of making physical demands on your body, it will eventually break down. Let those little injuries heal by taking a day or two off now and then. Resting for 48 hours is much better than getting injured and being forced on the shelf for months.
Get a Massage
I was well into my thirties before I booked my first massage. The whole idea of someone rubbing me down did not bother me. It was the price tag! Most massages cost about $40 for half an hour and now I constantly ask myself why I did not become a massage therapist instead.
Massages can reduce inflammation, promote muscle relaxation, and reduce stress. If you are in pain, a good massage can help. Plus, you may just be lucky enough to get a cute masseuse!
Take a Light Jog
I’m not asking you to do a full out run the very next day after a half marathon. Just take a light jog around the block. It will keep your blood circulating and ensure that you are just sore, not completely injured.
Get a Bit More Sleep
Sleep is the perfect cure for an ailing body. After a half marathon, plan to include either a nap later on in the afternoon or go to bed an hour earlier. Not only does it help muscles repair themselves, but it is also good to reset your cognitive abilities as well.
Elevate Your Legs
My father was a life long runner. Once he entered into his fifties, his legs would swell dramatically after even short runs. Some of you might be experiencing this even at a much younger age. To reduce the swelling, keep your legs elevated after a half marathon. You can also put on compression socks as well as long as they go up above the knees. By having your legs elevated, it will take all that blood that is pooling in your lower extremities and force it back up to the heart. This is a very good thing!
If you follow all ten of these tips after completing a half marathon, you will recover much quicker and will have less of a chance of becoming injured. While you are young, you may not feel like you need to do all of these things. But if you don’t, who knows if you will still be running then a decade or two down the line.