You know how they say, “third time’s a charm”? That proved to be unbelievably true when it came to my half-marathon recovery. It went like this: first race, figuring it out; second race, totally blew it; third race, BINGO.
Very much like Goldilocks, it took a little trial-and-error, including totally destroying my body on round two. But I learned from my failures, and I’m here to help you not make my mistakes. Here’s how you recover from a half-marathon to prevent that crippling, I-got-hit-by-a-truck soreness for three days after running the 13.1 miles.
Eat a banana: This is my go-to. After races one and three, I inhaled a banana (and a chocolate milk, but I don’t know if I can recommend that). Race two? No banana. I obviously don’t attribute the entirety of my recovery success to the banana (that’s one glorified fruit), but I think it definitely helped with muscle cramping and blood sugar. Thanks, potassium!
Drink lots of water and replace electrolytes: Hydration is key. If you’ve had some Gu or gels, you need to drink even more water to get your stomach recalibrated and prevent a postrace stomachache. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the next few days, too.
Foam roll and stretch: Take a few minutes after your race and dedicate that time to rolling out and getting your muscles massaged. This is so important for circulation and recovery.
Rest and eat a full meal: Don’t go too hard postrace. Celebrating is totally encouraged, but give your body enough time to recuperate from the intensity of your workout. Replenish nutrients and refuel your body with a complete meal. Get enough sleep to ensure your muscles are repairing themselves. Be sure to incorporate food some anti-inflammatory foods, like sweet potatoes and berries, to help support your recovery.
Skip the booze: This is certainly not a hard and fast rule, just something that worked for me. If you want to crush a beer after you crushed a PR, then by all means, celebrate! For me, the alcohol did not sit well on an already acidic stomach, and if you have a sensitive postrun stomach, you’ll encounter similar malaise. Additionally, you’re already pretty dehydrated, and alcohol will counteract your attempts to replenish fluids and electrolytes.
Ice: If you’re feeling pain or intense soreness anywhere, be sure to ice that area; 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. This will help reduce swelling and can alleviate pain. You can also pop a few ibuprofen to mitigate inflammation and pain.