The Ordinary Girls Recovery Guide after a Half Marathon
1You have crossed the finish line and although you are feeling depleted of all the energy your legs can muster. You also feel a wave of euphoria and the post run high that in my opinion is one of the best feelings in the world. You should feel proud of your amazing achievement and the resilience it takes to keep going when it would have been easier to stay in bed. I know from my experience that as I crossed the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon finish on Sunday May 15th I was on top of the world. I found it a challenging course with lots of nasty little undulating hills. I did not do a PB but finished with my head held high and very close to my personal best time, considering the course I am extremely happy.
As you cross that finish and get your new shiny medal in your hand the post run recovery begins……I am writing this feeling really good with minimal tightness in my legs. Of course I am sitting in my pyjamas and Skins on which looks kind of weird.
Here are some of my post race tips:
The most important thing after your race is to seek some water. I always start with about 500ml of water……don’t drink it too fast. Then your choice of electrolyte drink, as I wrote in my Ordinary Girls Pre Race Guide to a Half Marathon my stomach only tolerates Coconut Water which I packed in my post race bag. Continue to drink water slowly as you make your way to a stretching area or nice patch of grass.
Stretch & Roll:
I was lucky enough to find a stretching area all set up with yoga mats, foam rollers and stretching bands…..this is becoming very popular in a lot of the running festivals now. Alternatively, if you have some nice friends or family have them meet you with your own mat and foam roller. If you do not have a foam roller and stretching band I strongly suggest that you add them to your kit. Mine live on my lounge room floor underneath the couch.
I always start with some light rolling of my ITB (outer thigh area). Place the foam roller under your ITB, using your arms, slowly move your body up and down the roller allowing it to massage the outer thigh. This foam roller exercise is designed to improve ITB flexibility. It can be extremely effective in treating common knee injuries such as ITB Friction Syndrome and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. Next I move on to my glutes……ouch! Place the foam roller under your gluteals (buttock). Using your arms and leg, slowly move your body forward and backwards allowing the foam roller to massage your buttock region. After you have rolled around wincing in pain, start on some stretches for your hip flexors, quads, calfs, glutes and lower back.
The best time to restore your muscle energy and fluids is immediately. Consuming carbohydrates within the first 20 to 30 minutes has been shown to optimise recovery because muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. I like to replenish my energy with some delicious sweet fruit like a banana or kiwifruit.
So you have finished your race, foam rolled, stretched the next thing that I recommend is taking a bit of a walk just to slowly keep those muscles moving. I normally stay in a hotel the night before if I am running in a location that is too far to commute for an early morning start. Make sure to ask your hotel if you can have a late checkout…I have so far been really lucky when I nicely explain that I would love a hot shower after a half marathon. My hot shower is normally just me standing there enjoying the heat…..when I finally get out I try to do a little more foam rolling and stretching.
The last and final step is always my favourite……It is refuel time. This does not mean gorging on junk food because you have run and worked hard so you deserve it. Your body has expended so much energy and it needs to be replenished with good quality fuel….you wouldn’t put cheap petrol in your high performance vehicle so don’t put it in your high performance body.
Here are my refuel favourites:
Green smoothies: The antioxidants and phytonutrients help to fight damage to your DNA due to stress from the big race.
Ginger & Turmeric: both have anti inflammatory properties so I recommend adding them to your juices, smoothie or a delicious hearty curry.
Wholegrains: For your first larger meal, consider replacing lost carbohydrates with wholegrain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oats or other foods that are slow to digest.
Beans & nuts: As your muscles are actively seeking nutrients to repair broken down tissue they require protein to help rebuild. As a plant based foodie I prefer to get my protein from whole plants for example lentils, chickpeas, tempeh or nuts.
A steady intake of nutritious foods will also supply a wide range of vitamins and antioxidants to repair muscle damage, fend off free radical damage from stressful activity and recover your immune system.
The big day is over and it is now time to retreat to a bath with some epsom salts to soothe your sore muscles. Epsom salts are not actually salt but a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate. An Epsom salt bath is known to ease pain and relieve inflammation, making it beneficial in the treatment of sore muscles. A nice long bath will also give you time to unwind and reflect on your wonderful achievement.
Sending lots of happy healing vibes to all you runners on a post run high.