POST HALF MARATHON RECOVERY PLAN (updated from 2017) If you are following the Earned Runs Half Marathon 2018 Training Plan, you will need to think in advance about RECOVERY after running the 13.1mile distance race.
There is wonderful advice on this topic, provided online by very experienced trainers and coaches. Some comes as math-style calculations demonstrated with graphs. Other advice calls on runners to listen to their bodies. There are various articles describing 7 tips, or 3 steps, or several stages of recovery. It’s a bit confusing if you rush through the titles and paragraph headings only, and don’t read the details. Most of the advice is similar and common sense. But it doesn’t come automatically to runners, and only seems ‘common’ to you if you have experienced a few races and recovery periods.
At the end of this discussion there are links to the articles used for this post should you want more details from a particular expert.
The advice generally covers 2 PERIODS of time after the race:
1) Immediately after finishing and later the day of the race
2) Days and weeks later
IMMEDIATELY AFTER CROSSING THE FINISH LINE:
Your thoughts should be centered on hydrating and eating something (a mix of protein and carbohydrates) to replenish fuel stores and help begin the process of healing damaged muscles and soft tissues. It’s best to prepare something before the race and keep it in a car or a checked bag. Leaving this to chance or to race organizers has resulted in disappointment in some instances in my experience.
Earned Runs suggestions:
Shortly after eating, an easy cool down run is recommended.
Other measures that can be taken a bit LATER IN THE DAY include:
- “Cooling” with ice baths or refreshing cool pool as needed,
- Massage or yoga session offered at the race,
- Foam rolling,
- Compression apparel
The remainder of the day should be restful; use this time to celebrate your achievement and critically assess your performance in a positive light to help with future training and races.
Kristin Gustafson advises runners that they might experience an emotional reaction, which has a physical basis (post-endorphin release); a feeling of let-down is not unexpected at this time.
Sleep is also an important component of recovery, and a little extra the night of the race and over each of the following days is a good idea.
Try to skip the anti-inflammatory medications. Amanda Loudin has put forth the idea that recovery should be more “holistic” than it currently seems to be, that runners should EXPECT TO FEEL THE PHYSICAL EFFECTS of their effort and accept that discomfort as sign that progress will be made.
She incorporates advice from Steve Magness, author of The Science of Running and cross-country coach at the University of Houston. “If you look at how the body works, you realize you need to stress it to where it’s almost embarrassed,” he says. “The stimulus caused by damage allows the body to repair and adapt. This is where it makes its gains”. Hence, he caution, dosing yourself with pain-blocking anti-inflammatory medications or ant-oxidants may subvert the natural healing that is meant to take place.
DAYS AND WEEKS AFTER THE RACE
Take it easy. This advice concerns when and how to start training again after the race. A general rule of thumb offered by several sources recommend not returning to HARD workouts for a time period that equals 1day/1mile of race distance. Roughly that translates to 2 weeks after a half marathon and 1 month after a marathon. Easy short runs are not a problem.
However, Coach Jenny Hadfield cautions against following a calculated return to regular training and hard workouts. Without using the word ‘holistic” she recommends following body and life signals rather than numbers. Hadfield QUALIFIES the 1day/1mile rule, indicating recovery needs can vary by race. Runners must be flexible, she advises, and base a recovery plan on “the flow of life and your body, not the calendar.” “Recovery is about healing from the overall stress in your life, not just from training or racing.” The coach provides personal examples and a couple case studies in her article.
Age is another consideration in planning your recovery according to these sources. The older you are, especially after age 40, the slower you might wish to go in recovering from a big race, especially a marathon. Rather than 1 month, Pete Magill quotes champion marathoner Tracy Lokken as saying it should be 45 days. You may wish to take that into consideration for your half marathon recovery time if you are over 40 years old (45 days for a full marathon x ½ = 22-23 days for a half marathon).
Remember that if you don’t do a good job of scheduling an adequate recovery your body is likely to help you correct your mistakes. You may find yourself with more unscheduled days off than you planned, due to a sluggish return, or worse yet, an injury.
Matt Fitzgerald recommends swimming for a faster recovery. He discusses the results of a research study that looked into this activity for recovery by triathletes, who train for their event with swim workouts! Nine triathletes initially completed an interval run then either lay down to rest or swam 2,000 meters (40 lengths of a 50 meter pool). In addition to demonstrating better performance on a test run after recovery than triathletes who simply rested, those who swam were found to have lower blood levels of a marker of body inflammation 24 hours after that run.
It’s crazy to think that active recovery will be difficult to master, when over the past months you have driven yourself to follow a tough training plan. But it might. To preserve your ability to get back on a training schedule for another run in the fall, plan and follow a smart recovery.
“7 Post-Race Recovery Tips by Kristin Gustafson for Active.com
“Re-thinking Recovery for Runners: Adopting A More Holistic Approach” by Amanda Loudin for Competitor.com
“What’s The Best Post Race Recovery Plan?” by Jenny Hadfield
“Faster After 40: Master Your Recovery” by Pete Magill
“Want to Recovery Faster From Running? Try Swimming” by Matt Fitzgerald
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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