QUESTION: I have just done a half marathon and my legs are killing me, have you any tips to help me recover?
ANSWER: Well done on your half marathon, it’s a great distance and just challenging enough without being over demanding in terms of time and commitment.
You will always post a better time in a race than you will in training, as the adrenaline rush of the day helps you run harder and faster. This puts a greater strain on the body, which will leave you tender and sore over the coming days.
The first thing to remember is that you will be generally sorer two or three days later, due to delayed onset muscle soreness kicking in. The good news is that you can reduce this by eating properly, doing stretches and recovery workouts.
Directly after your race, you need to ensure you do some simple stretches, just range of motion ones to limber up the muscles, even just 15 seconds per stretch will make a difference. You need to also look at your post race nutrition. Directly after the race, try to eat some simple sugars — fruit is perfect, or some flavoured milk. Then, for the remainder of the day, you should ensure each meal contains protein, which helps the body to recover. Normally, you should eat 1.5g |of protein per kilo body weight, but after an event you should increase it to at least 2g per |kilo body weight.
When you get home, you have two options: a nice hot bath with Epsom salts, just lie back and let the salts sink into the skin, helping to loosen out the body. The second, more effective version, but certainly harder, is a cold bath or cold shower. Even just five minutes in a cold bath will rapidly increase your recovery — it may be tough, but it’s effective.
You wake up the next day and you’re hurting, so what should you do? Again, your basic range of motion |exercises will help, even just a small amount. You should |keep up your protein intake and then movement will seriously help too.
Recovery training is |basically a low intensity exercise that helps the body to gradually loosen without placing further strain on it.
Swimming is one of the classic exercises, as is walking or even cycling. It will possibly the the very last thing you feel like doing but, probably, the most beneficial. You should also be drinking at least three litres of water during the day, to help flush out the toxins and lactic acid from the body. By day three, the pain should have lessened and you are beginning to feel normal again.
Similar to day two, simple basic stretches, recovery workouts or rest will be beneficial. As you get fitter, you will be able to recover faster, but keep using races as part of your training plans. No matter what distance you are training for, use 5k, 10k and 21k races to increase your fitness, post personal bests and get even better results from training.