Updated: Nov 2, 2021
A half marathon might be a 13-mile track but it is a ten-thousand-mile journey. Believe it or not, half of it occurs only after you reach the finish line. Unfortunately, some times, we simply forget to think this far ahead, and while we have a perfectly thought-out regiment of meals and stretches down to a minute - before the race - things get a little blurry afterward.
Thankfully, you don’t have to outline a tightly scheduled plan for your recuperation, and here are some broad tips on how to recover from a half marathon.
1. Keep on stretching
It is not a groundbreaking thing to claim that a recovery means rest for a few days after a race. This is a common fallacy that can lead to a terrible crash, both in terms of energy and mood.
What you need to do is keep on stretching and exercising. Eat a hearty (and healthy) meal within the house after the race and go out on a long and nice walk, about three hours after the run. Hydrate evenly throughout the day and top the evening off with a light exercise - possibly a restorative yoga session or light stretching.
2. Prioritize active over passive recovery
You need to optimize your half marathon recovery plan before the main event and know how to properly feed your muscles after the legs have settled. Just like with most major important regiments, this one also entails a rough outline of what to eat.
3. The right food will heal you
The food list for runners before and after doesn’t have to change all that much. Of course, the goal is completely different, so the contents of your plate somewhat change in terms of portions. Bananas, avocados, whole grains and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts go a long way.
There is a possibility for some acute inflammation after the half marathon - especially over the course of two to three days after the event.
Tomato, olive oil and garlic aid in inflammation reduction. Greek yogurt is a good source of beneficial bacteria that will keep your gut flora healthy and, indirectly, regulate joint and cartilage recovery. Alternatively you can support your digestive system with probiotics.
The foods to avoid after the half marathon are the usual suspects - red meat, french fries, sodas of all kind, refined carbs and lard.
4. What not to do
The list of things to do and not to do after a half marathon is both fairly extensive, but most of them will cover some pretty important stuff. It is especially crucial to know what to avoid, and in that regard, you have to keep an eye out for several things during the foreseeable period - at least two weeks after a half marathon.
It has already been stated that you should prioritize active recovery, but don’t allow yourself to go fully-horizontal even in the meantime. After all, training hardly takes the most of your day, and you can easily fall into the trap of couch-potatoing before you even realize that it has happened.
You should also avoid drinking alcohol for a few days. A single beer, once or twice on a weekend won’t make that much of a drastic impact though.
Also, and this might of utmost importance, do not sit down immediately after the race. You might feel compelled to, but it increases the probability of stiff and pulled muscles. You need to wind down elegantly, which means that you should walk at least fifteen minutes after a half marathon.
5. How long does it take, biologically?
Biologically speaking, the bio-markers of cell damage are still present even two days after the race, and your body will go through a complete cycle of biochemical recovery over the course of a week - seven days at the very worst, three days at the very best.
After seven days, you should ease yourself into your regular running volume and continue training, without pressure, until the time arises again for intense marathon preparation.
Being prepared means thinking a few steps ahead. Preparing your mind and your body for a half marathon is only half a road. If you plan out a recovery in broad strokes, you will be able to bounce back from any sprain, inflammation or injury, not to mention the feeling of melancholy after you’ve achieved the great goal.