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Top 11 Half Marathon Recovery Tips

So you just finished the NYC half marathon this past Sunday and are just starting to recover from DOMS. Whether you are a seasoned runner or this was just a training run for a full marathon, healing and recovering from inflammation is just as important as your pre-race training. Everyone recovers differently, and it is different race to race depending on how hard you pounded the pavement, what your race day nutrition was, and even how the weather behaved. While one person may be able to get back to running the next day, you may need a little more time to tend to your aching muscles—and that’s okay. Listen to your body. No matter what your pace, here are 11 strategies you can try which will help solidify your recovery:

  1. Rest is best. If your half marathon race was brutal, rest is absolutely essential. One of the most common mistakes I see runners make is running too soon post raceday—ahem, not the best way to recover. Give yourself 3 to 4 days to allow any inflammation to calm down and then go for a short shake-out run. In future training, at least 1 day per workout cycle should be for rest.
  1. Stretch, roll, massage. All excellent ideas! But in order to give your muscles time to replenish energy and fluids, wait 2 to 6 hours after the marathon to stretch and get down with your foam roller. Also: go light and gentle on the stretching for a week or so. A massage sounding nice right about now? Wait at least 48 hours before rewarding yourself. I love Active Release Technique over a full body massage since it is the gold standard in breaking up scar tissue built up from race day and training.
    top half marathon recovery tips
  1. Normatec Compression Therapy. I typically have our runners wait 1 day after race day and then jump into these boots to push out the residual inflammation and swelling caused by pounding the road. It’s gentle, effective, and you can even take a nap while you these leggings pump air, compressing from your ankles up to your hip to push out inflammation. Our runners love them and say they can’t live without them. We recommend starting with a 30-minute session and 1–2 days later working up to a 60-minute session.
  1. Ice, ice baby. Especially if it hurts, but even if it doesn’t, icing your knees, quads, and feet after a race (20 minutes on, 60 off), is key. Or consider soaking in a cold bath for five to 10 minutes. This can go a long way toward fighting inflammation in your legs and speeding up your healing. FYI, Icing longer than 20 minutes can increase the inflammation, adding fuel to the fire.
  1. Traumeel. This non-steroidal anti-inflammatory cream is a popular topical remedy used to treat bruising, muscular strains, wounds, and swelling. It works quickly to repair damaged blood vessels, reduce swelling at the site of the injury, and eliminate pain. Massage into your calves, the arches of your feet, or anywhere else you hurt.
  1. Move, just move. Do it even if your body doesn’t want to, and all you want to do is lay on the couch. Your body needs movement to flush out the lactic acid and inflammation without any pounding on the joints. At Urban Wellness Clinic, we like to pull from moves we did as babies to counter the linear motion of running: rocking, rolling, and crawling will do a body good and lube up the joints which just took a beating.
  1. Eat to beat inflammation. Don’t use recovery time as an excuse to eat junk.  Remember: good food helps you heal. Go for foods with natural anti-inflammatory properties like ginger, cherries, beets, leafy greens, and omega-3 rich foods like walnuts. Don’t forget the protein to help your muscles heal, at least 30 grams per meal for a 165-pound runner, which is about the size of your palm. Avoid artificial sugar and saturated fat—they work against you.
  1. Elevate. Your feet, that is. Put 5 to 10 minutes into the Legs Up on the Wall yoga pose to reduce swelling. It’ll refresh your circulation, gently stretch your legs, and help you relax and pamper yourself post-race.
  1. Cross-training. Within 2 to 3 days of racing, some nice, low-impact cross-training will get those endorphins flowing and help with recovery. Need inspiration? We like to follow the Essential 7 model. In your first week post-race, cross-train, rest, and gently test your ability to run: short and easy. If you still hurt, keep cross-training, get strong, and bide your time before returning to the pavement pounding.
  1. On the road again. If it’s working for you, start back at your normal running frequency in week 2 but keep to short distances (no more than an hour). In week 3, run for longer and a bit faster. If all’s good, start easing back into your usual distance and intensity!
  1. Sleep heals all wounds. There’s really nothing like sleep. The human growth hormone which is released while you snooze goes the extra mile to repair your muscle tissue and renew your body fast. Whatever you do, don’t be stingy with dreamtime.

The fact of the matter is, the faster you recover, the faster you’ll get back to running. Healing is never a step you can afford to skip.

So give yourself a couple days’ rest and then give us a call for some hands-on healing: 212-355-0445 or

Best in health,

Dr. Emily Kiberd