All of your weeks, months, and possibly even years of training are worth it when you finally cross that finish line. When the high of your accomplishment starts to wear off, you realize how much stress you actually put your body through.
The hard part of your training is done, but you still have to take care of yourself following the half marathon. The week after is going to be dedicated to recovering with food, supplements, light runs and even compression gear.
Depending on your training schedule, you might have another race coming up in the near future. If that's the case, then this recovery week is very important. Taking care of your body can mean bouncing back faster after the race and getting back into training. Even if you don't have another race immediately after you'll want to take steps to recover faster and avoid the soreness and fatigue that comes after race day.
Right After the Race
A shake might be out of the question immediately after the run, however, if your stomach is upset. When you run your body diverts blood from your digestive system and pushes it out to your legs and arms for your muscles to use. That means that when your run ends there isn't much blood in your digestive system to digest food.
Read More: Running the Day After a Half Marathon
That's why you should take it easy with food immediately after your run. Try sipping a pre-packaged protein shake or chocolate milk and eat something easy to digest like a banana and see how you feel. Save the big post-race meal for when you get hungry.
Keep walking around for as long as you can after the race. You want to let your body ease out of exercise mode and keep blood moving. You also might be very cold after your run, so make sure you bring warm clothes for after the race. Try not to sit down too much after the race because your body might get stiff.
Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness
Soreness will start to creep up the day after the run and can last up to 72-hours after. Try to stay active and walk around, even if you're sore. Moving will get
Compression garments can also help your muscles feel better after a race, according to a 2014 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. They compress your muscles and increase blood flow in and out of the muscle, once again helping them recover faster and reducing swelling.
You might be tempted to take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, like Advil, after the race. While small doses are fine, taking too much can make it harder for your bones and tendons to heal, according to a 2013 study in the South African Journal of Sports Medicine.
Your diet during recovery week should be mostly the same as your training diet. You'll likely be very hungry for a day or two after the race, so make sure to listen to your body and get it some fuel. Eating more after the race is perfectly normal, especially carbohydrates. When you run your carbohydrate stores can get depleted very quickly, so it's important to restore them by eating things like pasta, bread,
Read More: What to Eat After a Half Marathon
There are some nutrition supplements that can help you recover faster. Tart cherry juice is a relatively new recovery supplement that tastes very strong but gets the job done. A 2009 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found that tart cherry juice helped marathon runners recover by reducing inflammation in their bodies and providing a host of antioxidants.
Getting Back to Running
Any form of long distance running stresses the body. However, it stresses people differently based on how they trained and how experienced they are. If this was your first half marathon then your recovery period is going to be more intense than someone who has run them before. If you were incredibly fit going into the half marathon and had run farther than 13.1 miles in training you might not need to take a very long recovery period.
The first three days after the race shouldn't include any running, just walking. There is a lot of stress on your bones and muscles during a half marathon and you want to make sure your body is healed to avoid injuries. After a few days of rest, you can try running up to three miles at a slower pace than you usually would. Stop before you hit the three-mile mark if you feel exhausted or injured.
That should be your only run during the recovery week. After that, you can start building back up to your regular training schedule and work on your next race.
Many runners add cross training into their workout plan by lifting weights, swimming, riding their bike or doing another form of exercise that doesn't involve running. The first two days after a half marathon should be spent resting but after that cross training can resume. The first training session should focus on upper body exercises because the legs are still recovering from running a half marathon. The goal of the recovery week is to rest from running, so not all training has to stop.