Regardless of the fact that you’ve spent months training and preparing for a half marathon, running 13.1 miles puts a lot of stress on your body – particularly your legs. There are, however, a number of strategies you can employ to aid the recovery process as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Keep on Moving
You’ve just run 13 miles, so the last thing on your mind is running, but a light jog followed by gentle stretching of the legs the day after your run will help to gradually return your body to a resting state, and clear your blood and muscles of lactic acid, which will limit your chances of developing crippling leg cramps. You are not chasing a speed record or focused on intensity or distance. It's really meant to be a pleasant, breezy aerobic exercise. If you’re in no state to jog, even a walk followed by gentle stretching is better than doing nothing. Total inactivity will make your muscles tighter, but too hard of a workout won’t allow your muscles to heal properly.
Rehydrate and Refuel
Avoid stuffing yourself with a carb-heavy meal. Instead, aim for a balanced mix of protein and carbs, such as an omelet and smoothie or a bagel, hard-boiled egg and fruit. Maintaining a well-balanced diet in the days following a run will also do wonders for your recovery, as you’ll provide your body the nutrients it needs to heal and prepare for your next round of exercise.
Hit The Hay
One of the most underrated elements of recovery? Getting a good night's sleep. Falling into bed the night after a long run is heavenly, but while you’re zonked your body is still hard at work healing itself, repairing muscle damage and continuing to move toxins out of your body.
Get Back to Work
For most of us, the after-effects of running a half marathon will be felt for a good couple of days following the event, so don’t panic if your legs are still killing you. However, after a week, your fitness levels will begin to fall, and you don’t want to undo all of your hard work. So get back out there and think about what your next challenge is going to be.