You just ran 13.1 miles — what are you going to do next? The answer: recover. The recovery period after a half marathon is just as important as the preparation, and the week following the big race can be extremely important to your overall health. With ample amounts of rest, proper hydration and light exercise, you should achieve a smooth recovery.
Post-Race and Day One
Half marathon recovery week begins the moment you cross the finish line on race day. The most important thing to remember during this time is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Consume beverages that contain electrolytes because your body will most likely be deficient in them.
You also need to eat fairly soon after crossing the finish line. In an online health chat with the Cleveland Clinic, registered dietitian Kate Patton advised consuming quick-digesting forms of carbohydrates, such as a sports drink, fruit, crackers and bread, as well as protein 30 to 60 minutes after you stop running. She recommends low-fat chocolate milk or a fruit smoothie that has added protein.
A study published in November 2018 in Plos One looked at a variety of recovery strategies following a half-marathon. The researchers concluded that in the first 24 hours after the race, cold water immersion and massage are the most beneficial recovery strategies, though they noted that the effect is limited.
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Days Two and Three
Continue to get plenty of rest on days two and three, and allow your body to take a break from exercise. Your muscles need adequate time to rest and recover from the physical exertion of running more than 13 miles. Continue to hydrate, and make sure you are eating well-balanced meals that contain plenty of fiber and protein. This period is all about replenishing lost stores of vitamins and nutrients and continuing to allow your muscles to rest.
Days Four and Five
Beginning on day four, start to engage in light exercise that promotes blood flow to your legs. Cross-training is recommended because it can encourage the use of muscles that you haven't been using while running. Yoga is also a good choice because it encourages stretching and flexibility.
Continue consuming plenty of water and healthy foods during this time. If parts of your body are bothering you, schedule a deep tissue massage to work out the kinks.
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Days Six and Seven
Muscle soreness from the half marathon should begin to subside by day six, and you may feel like your body is beginning to feel normal again. It is important to remember during this time that your body is still in recovery mode, and you should resist any urge to amp up your workouts too quickly.
The rule of thumb is to take one day of rest for every mile you ran, so for a half marathon, you can plan on allowing nearly two weeks for a full recovery. Days six and seven, and the entire second week should be all about gradually introducing your body back to moderate amounts of exercise while allowing for plenty of rest.