Recovering from any race is an important part of the entire training program and should never be discounted. However, there is no strict recovery protocol to follow after a race; this is because the amount and type of recovery you may need changes depending on how you feel after you cross the finish line, and on how well (or not) you trained for that particular race.
Therefore, the suggestions stated below are meant to serve as a general guide to your recovery after the United Airlines NYC Half.
Immediately after, and within the first one to three days after the race, it is important to rest completely, and gently stretch and foam roll as needed, depending on your individual level of soreness. Common areas of tightness after long-distance races include hamstrings, iliotibial band (ITB), calves, hip flexors, and quadriceps.
Once the soreness subsides—and barring any medical complications post-race—it is generally recommended to engage in what's known as active rest. Active rest includes low-impact activities that keep up your cardiovascular strength, such as taking short- to moderate-length walks, or light swimming.
You want to allow your body the opportunity to heal and recover completely before re-starting an intense running program. Anywhere from four to seven days of active rest after a half-marathon is recommended, depending on whether you are a novice runner or more experienced. Remember that rest is necessary to help prevent injury to your fatigued muscles after a race.
It is important to continue to incorporate stretching during this period of active rest, as well as to rehydrate, and perhaps most importantly, to take careful consideration of the foods you are eating to fuel your recovery.
Post-race foods and drinks that will help to replenish nutrients include chocolate milk, coconut water, and a well-balanced meal consisting of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein. The aim is to replenish glycogen stores that get depleted during the race as soon as possible. A sports nutritionist is a great resource to reach out to for the best refueling options that are appropriate for your individual dietary needs.
Varsha Seemangal, PT, DPT, MST, is a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Rehabilitation Department. She received her doctorate in physical therapy from Columbia University. Varsha is a lifelong runner and has completed two marathons, several half-marathons, and many 5K races. Her clinical interests include spine, hip, knee, foot/ankle injuries and returning patients back to running after injury.