So, you’re getting ready to complete your first half marathon. Or maybe you’re at the finish line watching me. Congratulations for finishing. And now you’re wondering, what do I do next? What do I do to recover from this thing that I just did, that I put myself through, that I finally completed. And I want to get back to it as soon as I can. Well, I’m Jesse Funk, and on today’s episode of Runner’s High, I want to give you your best options for recovery after your first half marathon.
The first thing you want to do is do not stop. That’s number one, don’t stop. I don’t mean keep running. But I do mean, you don’t want to sit down immediately if you can prevent it. Because there is a lot of junk, for lack of a technical term. There’s a lot of things that you need to get out of your muscles to help recover them faster, which means blood flow. Blood flows pretty much always the key to a little bit faster recovery. And that’s why you use active recovery in the form of long runs to recover from your training in general.
So, in this case, you’ve just had a maximal effort you’ve just raced. So, you absolutely, if you’re not in shape, do not need to do a cool down, which would actually involve going out for a couple more miles. If you’re in shape for that, go ahead. But otherwise, make sure you’re walking around and standing up, continuing to move a little bit for the next 10-15 minutes. And number two, as you’re walking head on over and get some food.
Usually, there’s going to be a food tent somewhere. Typically, at these half marathon, marathon type events, there’s going to be food for you available. And maybe it’s only going to be bananas and crackers and fruit and things like that. But something is going to be crucial.
Remember, we have this kind of 30 to 60-minute window after we get done with running where we can absorb nutrients at a higher pace than we can normally. Typically, two times, it depends on the literature you look at.
But what we do know is that there isn’t this absorption window that you can take in nutrients faster. So, to recover, we need to do a few things, get protein in and restore our glycogen stores. Because even though you’re running in half marathon pace, you’re likely to burn those out throughout your race. So, you want to get some carbs in, you want to get a little bit of protein in.
The off-used suggestion is a four to one ratio. I don’t know that that’s perfect. But it is a good guideline if your stomach can handle it. If however, you’re like me, and after a maximal effort like that for a long duration, and possibly if it’s hot, you may not be able to stomach food, which means you needed to have prepped before you came to the race.
So, hopefully, you’re not watching this right after you’re doing this before, bring something to the race in liquid form that’s going to help you recover. There’s tons and tons of options. Again, nothing new on race day. This goes for after the race as well. But in a pinch, you can try something new. Preferably, you’ve tried something out in hard workouts previously, and you know it sits well in your stomach, it works well with you. You want to bring something in liquid form.
Because that goes along with tip number three, you need to hydrate. You've just lost a ton of water. It depends on your sweat rate, which I show you how to calculate another video. If you stick to the end, I will show you how to calculate your sweat rate by another video, it’ll pop up on the screen, you’ve seen those as nice clickable icons. So, you need to replace all those fluids lost. If you don’t know right off the bat, then a good way to do it is to weigh yourself.
You know, if you have a rough estimate of how much you weighed before, and how much you weigh now, that’s going to be a general guideline of how much water you’ve lost. Remember that one gallon of water weighs roughly eight and a half pounds. I’m sorry, my UK European friends. I’m not doing metric in this video today.
Now, this next part is optional, but I find at least personally, it has a lot of at least psychological if not actual physical benefit for me, and that is massage. So, if you can afford it, and you have somebody who knows how to deal with the specific issues, areas that you have problems with, and the athletes or runners have problems with, then see that kind of masseuse.
I’m not talking about just going to like couples massage and just getting rubbed down and it feels nice. I’m talking about somebody who actually can work on those tissues. There is a vast array of massage options so that’s why you need to be particular about who you’re going to see in what you’re getting done so that it is addressed.
I’ve seen studies and I’ll have to look this back up, hopefully, I’ll have some links by the time this video comes up, that those massages immediately after the race, although they feel nice, probably aren’t going to have the same kind of efficacy as something a day, two days in that next week on is going to have. Because you’ve already basically destroyed everything.
Destroyed for everything, I’m being a little over the top here. You’ve already, you know, destroyed muscles, broken down muscles because of that maximal effort. And then massage at that point, doesn’t have a whole lot of extra recovery benefit. Through that period, post-race days on, you’re going to have tightness, soreness, all those kind of things. And that’s where that massage will get back to increasing blood flow, reducing tightness in muscles, all those kinds of things. So, I’m a fan in particular, of doing it, day, two day, three days on from the race than immediately after the race.
Now, these last couple things, I want you to keep in mind that they are not -- how should I say this -- not PC, but they are not the suggestions you’re going to get from somebody who’s very strict, and this is exactly how you should do it. But last year, when I interviewed people on my podcast, the Smart Athlete Podcast, you can see it here on this channel, subscribe, hit that button. I asked people, if you can only choose one recovery food for the rest of your life, what do you choose?
And it really didn’t seem to matter across the board; pro-amateur, whoever I was talking to, generally speaking, it was some kind of comfort food. Ice cream, pizza, beer, something like that. You don’t want to overdo it and just gorge, but this is a time where you’ve earned a little bit of reward and having a little treat here.
Although we could argue is going to be poor in terms of nutritional benefit for you, I think the psychological benefit of having a little treat, having a little reward outweighs the downside of that one window of nutrition. This is not something you want to do immediately after you race. As I mentioned before, you want to get those good carbs in; high glycemic index carbs that I didn’t mention earlier. But, when you’re thinking about into the evening, then getting a treat of some sort.
My friend Todd who I’ve interviewed on episodes three and 29 I believe it is, he loves cinnamon rolls. He
But the last thing you want to keep in mind is that don’t feel pressured to immediately get back to training. When I talked to a number of different guests, the one that comes to mind is Julia Roman-Duval, she came into running and became a very high-level marathoner attending the Olympic Trials and marathon. And she got -- actually, she’d already had three kids, she’s getting into her 30s and getting into this at a high level. Well, what she does, and this is very common, is to kind of take a rest week, take two weeks off. Some people will do light workouts, instead of trying to get back into training.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that you just put in this maximal effort, you’ve kind of tore yourself up, I said, destroyed everything. But I’m being a little over the top, like I said. You’ve beat up your muscles is the short of it. And they need time to recover.
So, like I mentioned earlier, that active recovery, if you can get in swim a little bit, cycle, something that’s not going to be quite as hard on your body, then that’s going to help get that blood flow through, help get nutrients delivered to your muscles, speed up the recovery process that all that protein you take in does to get your muscles back into shape. But don’t feel pressured to get immediately back to training, you’re not going to lose a ton of fitness. Because you didn’t get back the week after. It’s just not going to happen.
In fact, it can be more detrimental in the long term because, as mentioned, you’ve destroyed everything. And you need time to recover. If you continue to push your body, you don’t allow that recovery time, which is why you’re here, you want to know about recovery. If you don’t allow that recovery time, you can push yourself deeper into a hole that you’re not able to climb back out of so easily.
So, take that time, just like the, in my case, cake or ice cream that you’re going to have after the race, you deserve a little bit of a reward, a little time off. Enjoy yourself, do some things that you wouldn’t normally do, maybe. Go out with friends, catch up on something on Netflix. Whatever it is, take some time off after that.
So, those are all my tips on how to recover after your first marathon. That video I mentioned earlier should be popping up on the screen. So, if you want to calculate your sweat rate, you can do that. And then I’ll also link to my episodes of the Smart Athlete Podcast as I mentioned, my friend Todd and then Julia Roman-Duval, they’re episodes all in there. So, I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.