The question: I did my first half-marathon this fall. Now how should I rest and recover so I don't injure myself? When can I get back to training?
The answer: Congratulations! I hope you took some time to revel in your accomplishment. There is nothing like that first race experience. During my first half-marathon I complained the entire time, but as soon as I finished I wanted to sign up for another race. I was hooked.
Learn from my mistakes. I did too many races too close together. My body paid for it. When in doubt, err on the side of more recovery, not less.
I am not suggesting you lie on your sofa. Just stay away from high-impact activities for two weeks post-race. Swim, do yoga or use the elliptical. Then try an easy "test" run. If you lack pep in your step, or experience joint discomfort, don't start running regularly yet. Cross-train, get a massage, then try the test run again in a few days.
Once you can run without any discomfort, you are free to gradually ramp up the frequency and duration of your easy runs. Wait a month post-race before adding speed intervals back into your routine.
Consider establishing non-running physical goals to keep you active during the month or so post-race. Work toward doing a certain number of push-ups or squatting a certain weight. Feel free to sign up for another running race – just make sure it is five or six months away so you have enough time to recover.
After 12 years of racing, I have only finally learned to never sacrifice my body or my relationships to collect another participation medal – there will always be another race.
Trainer's tip: Completing a post-race analysis is a great way to stay connected to training while you recover. Ask yourself what went well and what needs to be tweaked? For example, did you always skip a run on a particular day of the week? If so, maybe you need to switch the days you train on. Maybe you slowed down in the second half of the race? If so, maybe you need to tweak your nutrition, or practice finishing strong by running the second half of some your training runs faster than the first.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for over 10 years. Her website is kathleentrotter.com.