I never want to run again.
March 29, 2012 12:04 PM   Subscribe

How to recover and get back into running after a half marathon?

I ran my first half marathon about a week and a half ago (the NYC Half on Sunday, March 18th). It was painful, but I finished, somehow, against my expectations. However, I tried doing an easy 5-mile run last Saturday and had to give up after 2.5 miles after dropping to a hobbling 12:30/mile pace, which was super discouraging, because my quads started aching again.

So my question is: how do I ease back into running? I want to take it easy to avoid injury (which happens way more often than it should), but I also don't want to lose a bunch of mileage, because that's just frustrating.

I've also signed up for another half in early August, so please let me know if you have any tips on maintaining/improving for that race!
posted by superquail to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure you trained enough? Because although marathons and above are tough for the body and generally require a couple of weeks to a month of easing off before getting back into it, that shouldn't be true for a half.

Also, if you are experiencing a lot of injuries, I suspect you may want to try figuring out how to run in minimalist shoes, i.e. with a forefood or midfood landing.

My major suggestions are 1. Right now, take it very easy. Any old pace is fine, and keep your runs short. And every other day at most. 2. When everything feels better, follow a formal training program -- Training Peaks is a very good site. 3. Think about easing into some minimalist footwear (Vibrams, Nike Frees, the new minimalist Merrels) and adjusting your footstrike.
posted by bearwife at 12:19 PM on March 29, 2012

Sounds like you may not have trained enough. For the next one, join a group (most running stores have groups to help newbies work up to a half) or follow the the plan on coolrunning.com.

But that doesn't help you today. You need to ease back into things. How much do you walk, go up stairs, etc. through the course of your day? I'd recommend you walk, not run, a mile or two every day (stop if you feel any pain) for the next week or so. Add in a couple flights of stairs to work your quads late in the week.

Take it easy. Drink a lot of water (or if you get sick of water, get some of those Propel packets that convert water into sugarfree coolaid). If you drink, cut back a little. And get some really good sleep - with the windows open and an extra blanket, if you need to (I sleep better breathing cool air).
posted by notsnot at 12:27 PM on March 29, 2012

For recovery, 2 things to try: (I did my 4th HM the same day, and my quads were in a surprising amount of pain 4 days after, so I know where you're coming from)

1- Foam rolling or other massage

2- Slow, easy runs- get your blood flowing in your legs-- it doesn't matter if you're going at a very slow pace, or for a very short time. Slow runs can be more restorative than complete rest.

There is a concept of a 'reverse taper', where you start with short, easy runs and over a period of 1-2 weeks you get back to where you were before. Try to get your frequency up to what it was before your half marathon, even if all your runs are short and slow. Then you can work on increasing the length of those runs a bit.

For improving for your half in August, I would recommend one of two strategies-
1- Speed, then endurance-- train for a shorter race, a 5K-10K in June. Keep your long runs at least around 6 miles, but they don't have to be as long as they were for the half. Do a tempo or interval session (or just unstructured speedwork) once a week. All your other miles should be in the easy-aerobic range. After that race, start to build your mileage to a slightly higher level than it was for your first half-- so if you did 25 miles a week with a long run of 10 at your peak, this time try to get to 30 miles a week with a long run of 11 (for example).

2- Endurance, then speed. Build your mileage from now until June. In June and July, start adding in increasingly race-specific speed workouts (1-2 a week) So you can start with short, fast stuff, like short repeats at 5K pace, and eventually progress to one tough tempo run (20-60 minutes somewhere between 10K and HM pace) a week. Keep all your other runs easy-aerobic.
posted by matcha action at 12:30 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've run two half marathons, both at the same pace, and after the first I was in the same boat as you, whereas after the second I felt a little sore but basically fine the next day. The advice above, to take it slow and short and work your way back up, is what worked for me.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:31 PM on March 29, 2012

It sounds like you may be already injured. Rest, ice, compression.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:32 PM on March 29, 2012

Congratulations on running your first half marathon! That's a great accomplishment! Obviously I don't know whether you're injured, but I was going to suggest that maybe it's your brain that is preventing you from running again? It sounds silly, but after I ran my first half, and my first (and only!) marathon, I hated running so much, I never wanted to run again. When I went out for a run after each of those races, I just could. not. run. As you said, a 12:30 minute mile seemed hard and I gave up, getting even more frustrated. It sucks to lose mileage from not running for so long, but maybe you need more of a mental break before running again?

The great thing is you gain mileage so much faster the second time you start training, so even if you run again in a couple of weeks, you'll be pleasantly surprised about how much you can still run. So as long as you're not injured, do some other exercise in the meantime.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 1:12 PM on March 29, 2012

Based on my own experiences, a week and a half is too soon to expect to be running back at your peak, for someone who is not a serious athlete (in fact, it's 6 days by my calculation). Try walking to keep your body moving for a week or two, then slowly work back up into running. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll regain your running ability once your body has recovered.
posted by dg at 3:47 PM on March 29, 2012

A good rule of thumb is that you need one day of full recovery for each mile of a long-distance race- so for a half, you should take a full two weeks with rest and lighter cross-training before you start running again.

Be sure you have flexibility in your hamstrings. If you feel soreness or tightness in your quads, it can be a relay thing from your hamstrings. Runners get really tight. An athletic trainer or physical therapist should be able to tell you for sure and suggest some exercises to build strength and flexibility in your legs. Good luck, have fun!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:24 PM on March 29, 2012

Thanks all! You guys are probable right - I wasn't quite as prepared for this race as I should have been. I'm going to take it easy for a few more days and maybe hit the stationary bike before reverse tapering.
posted by superquail at 12:46 PM on March 30, 2012

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