Running Recovery | 10 Tips On Recovering From a Hard Run

running recoveryThis past weekend I ran my first Half Marathon. It was the San Diego Half. I ran it with my cousin Stacy—she bought my entry into the race for my 30th Birthday. It was a blast! I finished in 2:13, meaning I beat the goal time I had set out for. These past couple days of intense calf soreness and slight knee soreness has me really chewing on best practices for running recovery.

Read on for 10 tips to maximize your recovering from a hard run or endurance event.

1. Immediately rehydrate

As soon as your race is over you’ll want to replenish all that water you let go. Even if you think you didn’t sweat much, you lost a lot of moisture just through exhaling.

Experts suggest you drink 20-24 ounces of water post run for every pound of moisture lost. If you don’t have a scale immediately on hand, it’s a safe bet to drink 20+ ounces immediately for running recovery, and another 20-24 within the hour afterward.

Keep sipping on water as your mouth feels dry. You’ll have to go to the bathroom to continue voiding this water. I got tired of using the restroom repeatededly the same day. But the following day, I didn’t feel bizarre or worn out. I still worked and had a clear mind—which isn’t possible if you don’t rehydrate properly.

2. Stretch, stretch and more stretching

Once you’ve begun rehydrating you’ll want to stretch those numb calves, achilles, and quadriceps immediately.

Don’t just give yourself 2 minutes of stretching and forget about it. If you really want to speed your running recovery, you’ll want to stretch multiple times throughout that same day, as well as the day after.

Check out what I wrote about how to be as limber and flexible as Bruce Lee.

3. Repleshing your glucose

You’re body just used up it’s glycogen storage and you want to replenish it immediately. This is one of the most critical points of running recovery—refueling right after a run in the correct way.

Bananas are great because they’re high in sugar and potassium. White carbs or a wheat bagel are good as well. Know what is friendly to your individual digestion. Due to the stress you put on your body sometimes your digestive system can be extra sensitive to what you put into it immediately after a race like a half or full marathon.

4. Replenish your protein

If you’ve just finished an endurance event, you’ve probably already begun breaking down some of your muscle. You are now in a “catabolic” state, meaning your body is using some of your muscle as energy. This isn’t the most efficient fuel source, but it still happens. You’ll want to get yourself into an “anabolic” state—that is a muscle recovery/building state by eating the right mix of carbohydrates and protein to speed your running recovery.

Bring with you some whey protein in a plastic ziplock bag as well as a shaker cup with water in it to mix and drink right after you’ve finished your endurance event. There are lots of Whey protein flavors to choose from too.

5. Icing

If you’ve got a throbbing body-part, it might be best to get it iced down after your run.

There’s an old acronym many like to use to guide people who choose to ice an injury or sore limb: RICE. Rest. Ice. Compress. Elevate.

6. Take a nap

running recovery

Don’t become a zombie runner by not recovering well.

During REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep your pituitary gland and other systems work hard to keep the right mix of hormones going. This includes producing testosterone which helps in the muscle building and recovery process. This is important for both men and women. If you want to recover well, you’ve got to get in some deep sleep. Take a least a 90 minute nap that afternoon if you want to speed your running recovery.

7. Get a full night of sleep

Take note to also get at the least a full night of sleep that night for your body to spend time rebuilding itself and continue it’s running recovery.

8. Take a light run

One or two days post-race take a light 1 -2 mile run to keep your muscles loose and active—of course barring anything that is overly sore that needs extra time to recover.

9. Get a massage

Massaging those muscles that just endured thousands of repeated movements will help release built up tension and soreness. Getting loose rather than staying stiff is imperative to running recovery.

10. Start Running Again

Don’t wait one or two weeks to start running again (barring injury). Get back out there the same week or following weekend and get yourself moving again. Unless you’re a pro, take the week to taper down before you start building back up again.

Running Recovery—Make the most of the following week

Don’t forget to continue eating well, sleeping well, and hydrating well all week long. Your endurance race wasn’t just a one-time occurance! It was a piece of your personal journey and another victory that you achieved. Keep your running recovery going, but make sure to look forward to the next goal you want to knock down!

This article was a follow-up to Training For Your First Half Marathon. Combine that with these running recovery tips!

You may also want to check out Running for the Injured Man.

[Top image Photo Credit:]
[Zombie Runner Photo Credit:]


  1. Great work Todd! Congrats on beating your goal! Where exactly in San Diego was the half marathon?

  2. Great tips Todd. I don’t know if I’ll ever run a half marathon but I use to run 5k races back in high school with cross country and I can only imagine what you had to feel like at the end of that race. Once the weather gets half way decent around here in Ohio again I plan to do some more jogging again.

    • That’s great! If I had the money, I would have considered paying a running coach. That’s what my cousin Stacy. You might consider that if that’s an option for you.

  3. I’m sure that after running 13+ miles, getting a full night’s rest was pretty easy!

    Personally I’m not into running, but you still get plenty rubbery after a good hike. 🙂

    • It’s funny b/c I started getting pretty bored of running as well. But I’ve realized that my long weekend runs are a lot of fun if I go to different places, the boardwalk, beach, the bay, all in one run. But my midweek runs are terribly boring (in my neighborhood). I’m thinking of doing sprints once a week and hiking once a week to mix it up.

  4. Great explanation of catabolic/anabolic effects, and how to counter the bad after a rough workout. Thanks for this.

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