When can I run again? It’s often the first thing my athletes ask post race as they notice that for the next few weeks there isn’t a single run on the training plan. And yet half marathon recovery is part of a good training plan!
The answer of course depends on a lot of variables:
- How hard did you run this race?
- Have you been dealing with any injuries?
- How long have you been running?
- Was this race part of a larger build up to a goal race?
The rule of thumb often thrown around is that you should take off 1 day from running for every 1 mile of the race. For newer runners I think this is largely accurate. The microtears that happen in your muscles might not seem as apparent a few days post race when you’re walking without a shuffle, but the body is still in full on recovery mode.
Without giving your body enough time to recover, the possibility of injury increases exponentially.Plus you’re short changing future races by limiting the bodies growth from the effort.
Instead of those tears getting a chance to heal, they’re being further broken down and putting you in a hole. That leads to changes in your running form, tight muscles or other issues which start to pull the body out of alignment.
Benefits of Not Running
Why do we need time off after a race? Some people feel like that time off is a reward for all of their hard work leading up to the race, but for me I enjoy that process so the recovery is all about allowing my body to heal. Instead of thinking of it as time wasted, focus on exactly how it’s making you a better runner.
- Rest days allow your muscles to refuel. You need those glycogen stores to refill, so that you’ll have energy.
- Rest days allow your muscles to repair. Repair means the body is going to grow stronger from the effort of your race.
- Rest days help prevent overtraining. The body has been pushed to it’s limits, which means cortisol is higher as the body responds to this intense stress. Giving this time to stabilize is important.
- Rest days help prevent injuries from poor form due to fatigue.
I am a proponent of active recovery, which you’ll see in the exactly day by day outline below.
How long should you rest after a half marathon? Not terribly long. In other words, just because you aren’t running doesn’t mean you should create a new dent in the couch.
Your body will actually feel better from some movement to help flush out the build up of lactic acid and prevent the body from getting stiff.Why to post race recovery is just as important as the rest of your training #running #halfmarathon Click To Tweet
Half Marathon Recovery Plan
The no running question, often leads to a bigger discussion of how not to lose fitness and what to do with the time that you would have spent running. It’s KEY to keep doing something at that time every day, which will help maintain that habit of fitness and make it easier to start running again after the time off.
Immediately post race:
Hydrate and hit the Epsom salt bath (here’s why no ice baths). Also, when you cross the finish line it can be tempting to find friends and collapse in a heap on the ground. But walking around slow and easy for 30 minutes is really helpful to allow the body to fully cool down.
Sleep is our best recovery tool, but often we have trouble for even a few nights post race because the body has so much adrenaline and cortisol shooting through it. I usually recommend a low dose melatonin, the magnesium drink CALM and that hot bath before bed. Find a routine to help you optimize your sleep for those nights and you will be running again sooner!
One day after:
Get in some movement to loosen up the muscles, consider a massage and enjoy your compression tights (they make exploring a new town more bearable).
Keep the movement easy with some walks or restorative yoga. This time is all about recovery and your chance to continue absorbing the race. Great races should be celebrated and the ones that didn’t go as well, turned in to practice races which you can learn from.
Add in some light cross training if desired, but this isn’t the time to try CrossFit for the first time. Here is when I start to get back to upper body and core workouts at the gym because I know my legs might need time off, but my arms are ready to go.
This way I’m adding to my injury proof body for when I’m ready to start training again.
Let your body be your guide to exercise, but keep the intensity low and try not to run if you can. Give some other muscles a workout! Swim, bike, yoga, Pilates, all of these things can and will benefit your running.
Additionally, the time away from focused running allows you to get back to remembering why you love to run for you and not for a clock.
How do I know When I Can Run Again?
Seasoned runners who have done a lot of half marathons or have done a number of full marathons, will often feel like they can head out for a run within the next few days. Some are absolutely fine with this because it wasn’t a day they pushed for a new personal record, but many realize in the weeks to follow they pushed it too soon.
- If this was a practice race, a completely fun run or part of the build up to marathon training, then the following week may include a number of easy runs.
- If this was a goal race, a first half marathon, a huge PR or a really difficult course, ideally you need to give your legs at least a week to recover.
- If this was a race gone wrong, then it depends on how you handled the day. If you’re injured don’t try to rush the return to running because you’re frustrated. If you backed off and turned it in to an easy run, then again a few weeks of easy running may be just fun.
You will not lose fitness in that time, in fact you GAIN fitness in the recovery process when you don’t short change it!
Example Half Marathon Recovery Plan
Monday: Restorative yoga and a little walk
Tuesday: Walk and more restorative yoga
Wednesday: Walk and upper body weights/core work (if feeling good)
Thursday: Walk and Vinyasa yoga
Friday: Walk or bike and Pilates
Saturday: Walk and yoga
Sunday: Use all my energy to stop myself from running.
Right now is another chance to start developing a few of the other habits that we know benefit our running like meal planning or meditation. Because we have the extra time and are not putting in the miles, nutrition needs to be even more on point to keep us feeling good.
Sans endorphins that’s more true that ever! If this down period gives you a chance to develop some other good habits, those will carry over in to the next training cycle.
What does your week look like after a race?
Do you do any pre-planning to keep yourself from overdoing it?
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish