Do these four things to recover faster after your race
After running a half marathon, the last thing you’ll want to do is more work. But taking the time to properly recover can prevent long-term injury and get you back into shape sooner.
Richard Neitzelt, PT, DPT, SCS and Katherine Wayman, PT, DPT, SCS, physical therapists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, offer some advice on recovering in the first few hours after your race.
“After completing the main event, there still is work to do – but it’s lesser in volume and easier to do than the work leading up to the event, I promise,” says Wayman.
Take these four tips into account after your next race and you’ll be on your way to feeling better in no time at all:
1. Stretch right away
Neitzelt explains that stretching isn’t guaranteed to totally prevent oncoming muscle soreness, though it does provide an opportunity to improve your flexibility and expedite the healing process. Exercising loosens up and brings blood to your muscles, making them more willing to stretch. Stretching within the first 15 minutes following the race takes advantage of this state and can leave your muscles more flexible than they were before the race.
Post-race stretches should be static rather than dynamic, meaning they don’t involve extra movement. Static stretches involve holding the muscles in a stretch for an extended period of time, typically around 30 seconds. Static stretches are repeated two to three times on each muscle and have the added benefit of allowing the body to mostly rest, which lets the muscles start replenishing spent glycogen.
Neitzelt suggests focusing on muscles that you know are usually tight or weak and returning to these spots multiple times during the post-race cool down. A foam roller or massage stick can also help target a specific area and massage the muscles more deeply than a regular stretch would, bringing in extra oxygen and blood flow.
2. Change into warm, dry clothes
The clothes will help keep your muscles warm and let them ease back to normal. Leaving your muscles exposed leads to a rapid decrease in temperature that will force them to tighten up before they’re ready.
3. Grab a snack
Eating is necessary to give the body fuel to start putting itself back together. Recovery doesn’t start until you bring in nutrients. Wayman suggests a balance of carbs and protein, offering a turkey sandwich or a smoothie with whey protein as easy, effective options. Sodium and a little sugar are also helpful, so have some pretzels and drink fruit juice along with plenty of water.
"Replenishing fuel and fluids is absolutely IMPERATIVE after a race. Everyone wants to train like they’re an elite athlete, but no one wants to recover like one," says Wayman.
4. Take a nap
After stretching and eating, you’ve put your body on the path to recovery. Get home and shower, then try a 15-minute ice bath for your lower body. After that, take a nap or just let yourself rest.
Taking care of your body is an ongoing effort, and the hours immediately following the race are crucial.
Proper recovery is necessary to get your body back into shape without any problems. Running a half marathon leads to a lot of wear on the body, even with proper training. Starting recovery right away means your muscles will spend less time in their worn-out state, avoiding damage and getting you back to pre-race shape sooner.