Half Marathon Recovery

Before I get to a race recap, I wanted to write about race recovery, since I’ve learned a few things from my two half marathons!

Race Recovery Tips I’ve Learned the Hard Way

1. Eat

After my first half marathon in September, it took far too long for us to get to food after the race!  Between the 90 minute race delay that made my early breakfast way TOO early, and the huge traffic jam getting out of the vineyard where the race finished, it was EIGHT HOURS between meals.  Yes, I had a banana and a chocolate chip cookie after I finished the race… no, that wasn’t enough!  By the time we finally made it somewhere for lunch, my hands were shaking, I was white in the face, and it took me five minutes before I could eat more than a bite at a time without feeling a wave of nausea.  Not good.

I recommend packing some post-race food in case the food from the tents is sparse, or not enough before you can actually get a meal.

This time, we grabbed a bagel with tofutti on the way home, along with a juice, and had lunch earlier.  I felt much better – but then was back to cranky when I skipped an afternoon snack.  Next time, I’ll keep in mind that I need to replenish my calories more throughout the day than normal!  It also pays to eat well… we’ve been trying to focus on eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, and the first thing I hear from other runners who’ve done the same is that it noticeably improved their recovery time between workouts.  I’ll take any help I can get 🙂

2. Walk & Stretch after the race

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You have your race medal – now don’t stop moving!

Don’t stop moving.  I know you want to.  I wanted to.  I kind of did after my first half marathon, when I ended up in a car for 50 minutes right after the race, trying to get somewhere for lunch.  This time, I walked a little more, and Greg reminded me to actually stretch.

3. Use a Foam Roller or “The Stick”

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Greg got me “The Stick” for my birthday after I started running, but I’d never really figured out how to use it, until now.  Remembering the stiffness in my legs after my first half marathon in September, and the advice I’ve gotten from other runners about the awesomeness of foam rollers, I decided I should probably try to massage my legs and see if it’d speed up my recovery.  (For a whole list of articles on foam rollers, check out this compilation from Runner’s World.)

I went to thestick.com and watched their instructional videos on using The Stick to massage your leg muscles.  I gave it a college try, and guess what?  I woke up feeling fantastic.  I’m sprinting up the stairs at my normal speed to switch laundry or get Will & Andrew when they wake up from naps (this has to be done at the speed of light so the other doesn’t awaken).  I took 10 minutes off my half marathon PR, on a course that had 575 feet of elevation gain according to coolrunning.com.  I know I worked for it, and let me tell you, my legs did NOT feel good yesterday afternoon.  Today, however, they feel great.  I can tell I ran, but it feels like I did a long run on a relatively flat course, not a full half marathon at race pace on a hilly course.  That’s an important difference!

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Looking for ducks :)

Today I went for a two mile stroller walk with Will and Andrew and my sister who was visiting.  We stopped at the duck pond to watch the ducks, we went to Whole Foods and had lunch there, we walked home.  My legs wouldn’t have felt good enough to do that after my first half marathon!  Maybe it’s experience, maybe it’s a little less elevation on the course, maybe it’s the foam roller or the lack of long car and plane rides… who knows.  What I do know, is that eating enough, walking and stretching after the race, and using The Stick are all helpful strategies that probably contributed to my faster recovery.

I’m sure I’ll be running again soon 🙂

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6 comments

  1. Nice job Kelly and make The Stick part of your daily routine. Use it pre and post running and maybe first thing in the morning and before you retire to bed. Seems excessive, but keep in mind it’s only about 30 sec. per muscle. The results will have your muscles very happy 🙂
    You will also learn much about which muscles are well recovered vs. which ones are not ( the ones that feel uncomfortable when you roll them out) and you’re in the driver’s seat of your recovery.

    All the very best and keep up the great work Kelly,

    Patrick
    Patrick@thestick.com

    1. Thanks Patrick! It certainly seems to have made a difference, and at around $30 it’s much less expensive than sports massage! Not to mention readily accessible and very fast.

  2. Great post Kelly, I don’t think we put enough importance on recovering after running. I know I’m guilty of not stretching enough.

    1. I agree – I’m not good at stretching. I remember reading a whole article on how bad stretching is worse than no stretching, and I think I used it as an excuse not to stretch… which was NOT the point of the article!

  3. Ooh, I totally hear you on the stretching after the race. I sat down a little too soon after my half while I was waiting for my friend to finish, and when I got up and started moving, it hurt a lot. Walked for a few hundred metres and then had a really good stretch and felt so much better. I also chugged a BCAA (branch chain amino acid) post workout drink that made a huge difference as it replenished what my body needed straight after the race. I haven’t gotten into the foam roller habit yet, I know I need to!

    1. It’s hard to keep moving when all you want to do is stop!!!!

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