Half marathon recovery week begins the moment you cross the finish line on race day. The most important thing to remember during this time, and it does depend on the temperature on race day and how long your individual race took, is to hydrate. Ideally consume beverages that contain some electrolytes because your body will most likely be deficient in them, but also better to sip regularly through out the day post race, rather than downing a bottle of water in one go.
You also need to eat fairly soon after crossing the finish line. We recommend an easy to digest and familiar protein recovery drink, like a pint of milk, chocolate milk shake, soya based drink or rice protein based drink. You are looking for 20-25g of protein with around 50g of carbs. Carbohydrate helps the protein become absorbed into the body to relieve those depleted muscles. You also need real food within 60 minutes, a sandwich, cheese and crackers or a jacket potato with tuna/beans are ideal. The post race burger isn’t great in all honesty as the huge fat content will be a shock on the body. Save that for later in the day if you’ve promised yourself a treat.
Change out of your running clothes as quickly as possible and if post race massage is available, this can be beneficial for helping the recovery process get underway. Get into a warm shower/bath as soon as possible.
Days Two and Three
Continue to get plenty of rest on days two and three. 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 vegetables and protein. This period is all about replenishing lost stores of vitamins and nutrients and continuing to allow your muscles to rest. Your immune system takes a nose dive shortly after long endurance events, so pay close attention to your diet and sleep.
Active recovery is essential however, so ensure you stretch regularly, fluid stretching like Yoga is better than static stretching. If the half marathon was a build up race to a marathon or another race, then a light recovery jog of 30-45 minutes will be beneficial.
Days Four and Five
By day four, you should feel you can return to a more normal level of exercise. If this was your season A race then you could start to engage in some 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. Continue with fluid stretching / Yoga because it encourages flexibility and blood flow. For those with an A race on the horizon, you should be able to return to your schedule and add back in tempo and strides and build towards your next long run and speed session.
Continue to consume plenty of water and nutritious foods during this week. If you can feel some niggles or general fatigue still, then a deep tissue massage would be appropriate before you begin proper training again.
Days Six and Seven
There is a general rule of thumb 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. This does really depend on your level of fitness however and how long the race took. Definitely ease back into training and listen to your body. If you still feel tired rest or run very easy. By the end of the second week back you should be ready for your next block of training and next goal.
Michelle Maxwell is an experienced running coach with a running and triathlon coaching business she runs with her triathlon-obsessed husband Chris. They live in beautiful Wiltshire, with their three children (twin boys Harry and Josh, and daughter Sophie). Michelle loves ultra running, running fast on the roads, adores the coast path and mountains, and thrives on helping other achieve their goals. Follow her on Instagram @ultrarunningmummaxwell @maxwellcoachingendurance / Facebook @maxwellcoaching