It usually takes about two weeks to return to normal after a half marathon. If you run at a maximum effort during a race you will challenge your body more than a regular workout. There will be more than usual muscle tissue damage in your legs. You need some time to recover and allow your muscle tissue to repair. Usually you will recover faster if you exercise, but at a lower intensity.
You can monitor your recovery by keeping track of a few health statistics.
1. Resting Heart Rate – Your running watch records your resting heart rate. If your average resting heart rate for the day is higher than your monthly average that is an indicator that you have not fully recovered.
2. Average Training Heart Rate – Another way to monitor your recovery is your average training heart rate which is recorded by your running watch. Your average training heart rate is your heart rate during the workout. If your training heart rate is ten percent higher than usual, your body is sending you a message to train at an easy pace.
3. Muscle Soreness – If your legs are more sore and tight than usual that is an indicator that you have not recovered from the race and to continue to run at an easy pace.
4. Average Training Pace – Your legs may feel recovered but you are not able to run easily at your normal pace. Review your average training pace in running watch reports and when your paces return to normal you are recovered from the race.
Here are four ways to recover faster after a race:
1. Run at an Easier Pace – run the workouts at an easy pace
Running can be healing. If you run at an easy pace you will recover faster than not exercising. Continue with your workouts but at a reduced level. If you run a tempo workout, run much easier than normal. Reduce speed by 20 to 30 seconds per kilometer. Run speed workouts at a slower pace of 10 to 20 seconds per kilometer. Longer runs at 20 to 40 seconds per kilometer slower than usual. Light strides after an easy pace run will help promote rapid healing.2. Cross Training at a Easy Level – cross train at low intensity
You may have a few aches and pains after a race that could lead to an injury then it may be better to cross train than to run. Easy stationary biking helps to flush out the muscle tissue of any waste that is causing tight legs. Other good forms of recovery cross training is elliptical, stationary biking pool running and light weight training. Any form of exercise should be at a lower intensity than usual.
3. Eat High Nutrient food – water and vitamins
It’s tempting to eat a lot of pizza for several days after a race to celebrate. However you may want to include high nutrient food in your diet that offers the vitamins and minerals your body needs to repair muscle tissue. High nutrient food such as vegetables and salads contain more water than processed foods. This helps you hydrate better allowing for faster muscle tissue repair.
4. Light stretching, and Strength exercises – low intensity exercises
Light exercises and stretching can speed up your recovery and help muscles repair faster. Try a half hour of light stretching. Only stretch lightly unless you are well warmed up. The idea is to promote mobility if your muscles are tight. Moderate strength exercises that you can do at home such as mini squats, calf drops and planks encourage circulation to key areas that support your running health and technique.
Faster racing is about training hard then allowing for recovery before the next workout. Consider your race as a super high intensity workout which requires more time for recovery. Follow these suggestions to recover faster and allow for better long term performance as there will not be any lingering fatigue. Hammering a workout the day after a race will only keep you from recovering faster and will not have much benefit to your racing. After a week of low intensity running you will want to move towards your regular training program but keep the paces less than 100 percent for another week. After two weeks of reduced intensity you should be able to train at the same level as before the race.