Congratulations! The 3M Half Marathon certainly wasn’t easy—especially if it was your first—but after the exhilaration of finishing the race has passed, you might still be sore and tight. And if you’re running the Austin Marathon or Half there isn’t a lot of time for recovery.
You expected some soreness, but here it is two or three days later and your leg muscles may still be barking at you and feel even stiffer than they did on Monday.
It’s called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and in the days following a half marathon (or marathon) you are probably getting up close and personal with it.
What has happened during the course of running 3M is your muscles—especially the quadriceps–have been damaged by the repeated pounding they took. Don’t worry. It’s normal.
Since 3M is a largely downhill course, it can cause even more muscular damage than a flatter race such as the Rogue 30-K. The long downhills are particularly tough and can inflict plenty of damage to the quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and calf muscles.
Fortunately, damaged muscles repair themselves quite quickly. The fitter and better conditioned you are, the less damage you will have done and the faster the muscles will repair themselves and allow you to get back on the horse for the Austin Marathon on February 15th.
Here’s what you can do to recover quicker from 3M:
1. Keep walking. On Sunday, you should have tried to walk some of the post-race soreness off. In the days following the 3M, you should still keep moving even if you can’t run without residual soreness. Give yourself plenty of time to recover by walking for at least 30 minutes a day until all the muscle soreness has dissipated. It doesn’t matter if you walk slow or fast—just get a good walk in every day to flush the lactic acid from your muscles and improve circulation. Gentle cycling also helps.
2. Re-load. Before 3M, you didn’t really need to carbo-load, but what you need to do now is rehydrate and refuel your muscles with plenty of carbohydrates to quicken you recovery. Avoid greasy foods.
3. Don’t run. If you’re still sore from 3M, avoid running for another day or two. There’s no point as it will just delay your recovery and could easily lead to injury. You’ve earned a min-break; enjoy it. When you can move easily without any leg soreness or pain, is when you can start running again.
4. Use alternative exercises. In the days after 3M, go for an easy bike ride, hike or swim. Any gentle, non-stressful exercise is fine.
5. Ice. If your muscles are especially sore or painful to the touch, use ice for the next day or so to further reduce inflammation. Also consider taking some Aleve or Advil to reduce the soreness.
6. Massage. Now is the time when a massage might be the perfect remedy for sore muscles. Seek out a reputable sports massage expert and get a solid hour of bodywork.
7. Stretch. If you are able to stretch, a light routine of 20 minutes of leg stretches will help alleviate the soreness. Emphasize the hamstrings, hip flexors, calf muscles and quadriceps.
8. Avoid weight training. If you go to the gym as a regular part of your fitness routine, don’t lift for a few more days. Definitely avoid any heavy leg work. Your leg muscles are wiped out and need a break.
9. Relax. Give yourself some time off before the final two week buildup to Austin. If you feel like getting in some extra sleep, go for it. If you want to indulge in some favorite foods you’ve been avoiding before the marathon, indulge away. If you want to veg out and be a couch potato for a few days, you’ve earned it.
10. Don’t go long this weekend. The Austin Marathon is in two weeks from this Sunday and your long running should be over by now. Instead of jumping right back into long stuff, cut your weekend long run in half. You won’t lose any fitness or your edge.