Whether your after-race ritual is to throw your running shoes into the back of your closet or to sign right up for your next marathon, you shouldn't overdo it — or completely neglect your running routine. Here are a few dos and dont's to think about as soon as you cross the finish line in order to recover well and keep your body feeling as healthy as it can be.
Don't forget to stretch: Recovery starts as soon as you cross the finish line, so don't neglect your body in the excitement of the moment. Like always, you should spend 10 minutes to cool down with a stretching routine that hits your tight, sore muscles; this sequence of eight stretches targets your overworked hip flexors, lower back, quads, and hamstrings. Stretching both immediately after and regularly after your race will help you recover. And while it may be painful, a regular session with the foam roller whenever you have down time will help knead out knots and get you back on track.
Do make rest a priority: It can be hard to imagine your schedule without your daily mileage or cross-training goals, but now's the time to make sure that you're giving your body a much-needed rest. You don't have to lay on the couch doing nothing (unless you want to — you've earned it, after all!), but you should take a few days to scale back your routine.
Don't stop moving: Resting after a race shouldn't mean a string of sedentary days. You need to move to ensure that your blood circulates to your muscles and to lessen the stiffness that sets in post-race. Go on an easy jog, take a walk, or sign up for a yoga class in the week after your race to help you recover faster and feel your best again.
Don't neglect your diet: Finishing a marathon or half marathon is a huge accomplishment, so it's no wonder that all those miles have taken a toll on your body. You'll need to eat to restore both your muscles' energy levels as well as your immune system. Be sure to grab the recovery drinks and snacks that are handed to you at the finish line, and — after you've appropriately celebrated your finish with an indulgent meal of your choice — load up on complex carbs, lean proteins, and fresh produce in the days after the race.
Do get back out there: You've spent months working on your endurance and speed, so keep it up by sticking to a regular running routine. Just be sure to add cross training, like these exercises that help prevent injuries, so you aren't sidelined by a running injury.