How to Recover After a Half Marathon

“Thirteen point freaking one”

October is a great time to run a half marathon. It’s cool, the trees are beautiful – who am I kidding, half marathons are a blast, any time of year.

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My face when I get to run a fall race.

I myself just ran one of my favorites, the Fargo mini marathon. It was a perfect fall day, challenging course, and a pretty fast pace, leaving me more spent and fatigued than a usual half. My mind instantly shifted to my recovery plan.

It made me think about running recovery. Most runners focus on everything leading up to the race, from nutrition and supplements to weekly mileage goals and speedwork, yet many have a plan for an important part of race day: recovery after the run.

Those 13.1 miles take a toll, even on the most seasoned runner. Post-race recovery is crucial to keep your mind and body feeling good hours, the next day, even the next week after a half marathon. Here are my five recovery tips after a successful 13.1.

Get Your Hydrate On

Whether you grab a bottle of water at the finish or bring your own sports drink, post-race hydration is crucial. Even if you hit a couple water stops along the course, you still have a lot of fluid to replace.

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This guy always rides shotgun.

Proper hydration extends beyond immediate post-race too. You’ll want to hydrate all day after a half marathon. This will help prevent nasty headaches, cramping or excessive muscle soreness, even lead to better sleep that night.

Snack Time
Some people can eat slices of pizza, down a carton of chocolate milk, even pack in ice cream right after a race. I am not one of these people. Immediate post-race is the one time in my entire life that food is not appealing to me. But I know the importance of a post-race snack for recovery so I always make it a point to find something after the race. A small bagel, a banana or a small cookie is usually my jam. Just enough so I’m not running (ha, running, get it?) on empty too long.

That being said, remember the key word here: snack. Don’t go overboard on the post-race snack. Depending on the time of the race, you’ll probably eat a normal breakfast or lunch soon.

Lower Body Love
I know, I know, it’s easy to forget to stretch after a workout. It’s even easier to neglect it after a race. All the excitement, getting your medal, meeting up with family – before you know it you’re home, and you haven’t taken care of those hams and glutes that just worked so hard.

Take just a few minutes for post-race stretching. Standing quad, hip flexor, and Achilles are great ones you can do anywhere. And you absolutely must lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air. It’s light on the hamstrings and feels os so good.

Consider Compression
I don’t run in compression socks but I love wearing them the afternoon of a big race. Sometimes, I’ll even sleep in my compression socks.

The concept of compression, like rock tape, dry needling, and a host of other runner rituals, is one of those that doesn’t have a ton of real science or proof behind it. So, for most runners, it’s either something they think is bogus or it’s something they swear by. For me, it’s the difference between waking up with no soreness vs. waking up and walking around like an old lady all day. Seriously, give it a try. Then feel free to bitch at me on Twitter if you think it sucked.

Move It Move It
It’s so easy to fall into slug mode and not move from the couch all day after a race (except to pee, because you’re staying so hydrated). Do yourself a favor and go for a quick walk or two, get up and do a few chores throughout the day, just keep yourself from sitting too long.

It might seem like resting all day with your feet up will help the legs recover but keeping things moving is the best thing for beating day-after soreness. If your next day involves going down stairs, you’ll be especially grateful.
And one more tip, the most important of all – celebrate! You just ran a half marathon. You worked hard for weeks, maybe months, and you did it. #TreatYoSelf, eat a favorite meal, toss back a few drinks. Soak in your awesomeness .

Do you have questions about recovery after a half marathon? Or do you have a special recovery move you swear by post-race? Comment or tweet me, @runlikeagirl311.

This blog also appeared on the Seek Health blog.

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