That’s right. After your race, as long as you don’t have pain, walk around and keep the legs moving easily. This promotes blood flow and will help keep you from stiffening up and potentially pulling a muscle. Over the next hours and days, make sure you are making an effort to keep moving easily.
Ok, yeah, it’s fine to have a celebratory drink but make sure you are getting in plenty of water throughout the day. Plan for proper fueling recovery. Aim for quality protein, fat and carbs so your body can start repairing those well-worked muscles. After a hard effort, it may be difficult for you to get in the calories you need. Try a smoothie or other liquid meal replacement until your gut settles down. Over the next few days, don’t cut calories as you cut running. Your body is working on repairing damage and needs the extras!
Ease back into running
There is no hurry to get back into running. You can expect DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) to peak after a race in approximately 48 hours. It’s fine to walk around and we’d encourage that or light biking or swimming, as it’ll help ease stiffness. Avoid intense activities however. Your tendons, joints and muscles have had a lot of stress and need time to recover even though you may feel ok. It’s better to be cautious about returning to running after a hard effort. Just like you tapered in the lead up to the race, expect to taper over the next week or so after the race. After 3 – 4 days try a short, very easy run. It may feel that you have forgotten how but rest assured, the fitness you’ve gained will still be there after you finish recovering from the race effort.
Take that Break
Physically you can probably expect to be recovered in a week or possibly two from a half marathon depending on your experience level. However if this is your first time at this distance expect a little longer recovery. Part of the recovery that is often not discussed is the mental recovery. Keep your runs unstructured and easy once you resume running. Resist the urge to hit particular times and just enjoy being out there! Have FUN! If you do a lot of races, consider taking a break from running at a scheduled time each year for 2 – 3 weeks. It’s best to plan for a break in your schedule rather than being forced to take them because of injury and burnout. You should miss running when you take this downtime and look forward to the return.
Expect the let down
After being focused on a goal race for a long time it’s natural to feel a little let down after the event regardless of how it went. This is a great time to reflect on what went well during the training cycle and what didn’t. Don’t beat yourself up but reflect on where you can improve. Focus on what makes this fun for you.
That’s right! It’s always fun to contemplate what is next. We do these events for many different reasons. Ultimately you enjoy the challenge, the camaraderie and the fun of it all. Plan for that and have fun looking to the future!