You’ve done it! Those last few miles really took it out hard, you felt like there was nothing left in your legs or your lungs were about to explode upon waking up, but you kept saying to yourself “move your legs!”. So I bet you are dreading leg pain and blisters healing for the next few days, but is there anything you can do to speed up your recovery and get back to the gym or hit the road again?
Nutrition and hydration
Optimal nutrition and hydration are key recovery strategies after the half marathon. As tempting as it may be, it is inadvisable to go straight to the pub and celebrate your performance with a couple of pints and a pub lunch. Alcohol will further dehydrate you and aggravate the dehydration induced by 2 or 3 hours of running.
Replace the water and electrolytes that you have lost through sweat. You should drink 1.5 liters of water for every kg of body weight that you have lost during the race. Make sure to add a pinch of salt to the water for your body to absorb.
Restore your glycogen stores in muscles and liver. This restoration is highest in the first hour after exercise, so use liquid and then solid meals that contain protein and carbohydrates. To do this, consume 1-1.2 g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight per hour for up to 4 hours after the run; for example, an 80 kg athlete would need to consume 80-90 g of carbohydrates per hour to replenish muscle glycogen. Here is an idea of the carbohydrate content of foods:
Lucozade sport – 30g
Lucozade Hydro – 10g
- 1 banana – 25g
- 1 apple – 15g
- 1 orange – 20g
- 1 kiwi – 6g
- 1 serving of berries – 5g
- 2 dried figs – 15g
- 2 dried dates – 15g
- 6 dried plums – 20g
- 1 tablespoon (30 g) dried raisins – 20 g
- 2 slices of barn bread – 50g
- 1 medium serving of rice – 50g
- 1 portion of medium pasta – 45g
- 1 medium serving of spaghetti – 35g
- 1 serving of Special K – 20g
- 1 portion of muesli without sugar – 30g
- 1 portion of corn flakes – 25g
- 1 serving of bran flakes – 25g
- 1 portion of porridge – 14g
- 1 potato – 50g
- 1 large sweet potato – 30 g
- 1 serving of peas – 8g
- 1 serving of carrots – 3g
- 1 serving of broccoli – 1 g
- 1 serving of cauliflower – 3g
Be sure to eat these carbs with good quality protein sources that help repair race-induced muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone damage. Good sources include eggs, chicken, beef, and fish.
As crazy as it may sound, the best thing you can do to speed up the recovery of those sore limbs is to do what’s called active recovery. This can be anything from a light walk with the dog, a gentle 20 minute bike ride, or a light jog. Some stretching and a massage would also be a good idea as part of this active recovery. Research shows that active recovery athletes report less muscle soreness and better performance compared to passive recovery athletes.
Immersion in cold water
It is now fashionable for athletes to use “ice baths” after exercise, as they are supposed to improve recovery after exercise. I’m sure you’ve all seen and heard Paula Radcliffe promote the benefits of using ice baths. However, how do you know if an ice bath is good for you after training and after the half marathon? More importantly, how can you do this at home?
There are some misconceptions about ice baths or what is also known as cold water immersion (CWI). You don’t have to dump 10kg of ice into a water bath and sit there for 10 minutes shaking in pain to benefit from CWI. The temperature of the water only needs to be cold (<15 degrees C) and cold water from a tap, maybe a few ice cubes will suffice. You can stay in the ice bath for 2 to 5 minutes or do a contrast bath in which you do CWI for 30 seconds, then shower with lukewarm water for 30 seconds and do 2 or 3 rounds of this.
CWI is useful in drawing blood from the extremities and returning to the nucleus. This helps remove waste and toxins from the working muscles. When you shower in lukewarm water or just get out of the hot and cold water, you will have increased blood flow back to the extremities that carries fresh blood and oxygen back to the muscle to aid recovery.
Contrast baths and CWI have been found to be more effective than passive recovery (which means doing nothing), but no more effective than compression socks or active recovery. Therefore, it would be advisable to combine your CWI with active recovery and compression socks.
Some people love ice baths and swear by them, others absolutely hate them, so I think using ice baths is purely subjective. In some people, CWI decreases the feeling of pain and fatigue after a run and increases the perception of “recovery.” So if you are one of these people, go for it. If you can’t bear the idea, think about post-exercise nutrition, compression socks, and active recovery as a way to improve your aching legs after the half marathon.
We don’t fully understand why we need to sleep, but we do know that sleep has an amazing process of restoration and regeneration in the body. We know that certain hormones are released during sleep, such as growth hormone, testosterone, and melatonin, and that these hormones direct the body’s repair processes.
Good sleep hygiene refers to adopting behaviors that normally promote better quality and quantity of sleep and avoiding behaviors that interfere with sleep. One of the best ways to improve your sleep is to improve your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene involves many things, such as sleeping in a dark, quiet room, aiming for 8 to 9 hours of sleep, eating the right foods and nutrients during the day (such as meat, fish, and vegetables), and avoiding food and other things. that delay sleep (such as caffeine and alcohol).
- Hydrates and replenishes muscle glycogen stores in the 4 hours after the end of the race.
- Get a good night’s sleep (8-9 hours)
- Use CWI if you think it benefits your recovery
- Do and active recovery the day after the race.