Recovery after a race

Recovery after a race | UPMC Health Plan

As race day approaches, many of us are preparing by logging tons of miles so we can run the full distance and complete the race. But one aspect that many people forget about is recovery! This is important not only after each workout, but also after the race. Runners who don’t recover properly run the risk of lingering soreness and even injury.

So here is a step-by-step guide of what to expect from the minute you cross the finish to the hours and days after the race.

5 minutes:

Recovery begins right after you cross the finish line. First, keep moving — walk or slowly jog to bring your heart rate and body back to a resting state and flush out lactic acid from your muscles. Aim for 10 to 20 minutes (depending on your fatigue level).

10 to 15 minutes:

Rehydrate with 16 to 20 oz. of fluids. Drink water or sports drink to replace fluids and electrolytes.

Spend 10 to 15 minutes stretching hips, calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps, along with any other tight spots.

15 to 30 minutes:

Refuel your energy stores with a small snack. Eat a snack that contains both carbohydrates and protein. Research has shown that consuming carbohydrates within the first 30 minutes optimizes recovery because muscles are most receptive to building glycogen stores at that time. Protein is an equally important part of recovery for muscle repair. Aim for a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein — ranging from 100 to 300 calories. Some good options are banana and peanut butter, granola and yogurt, fruit smoothie, or chocolate milk.

To keep from getting cold, change into dry clothes.

1 to 2 hours:

Eat a small meal. Focus on eating a healthy meal with protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. The goal is to help give your body the nutrients it needs, decrease inflammation, increase muscle and liver glycogen stores, and rebuild damaged muscle tissue.

Continue to hydrate. At this point you can stick with just water. All the extra sugars from sports drinks can cause GI distress.

2 to 24 hours:

Take a nap to let your body rest and recover.

Consider taking a short walk. Light activity can promote circulation, deliver fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, and help rid the body metabolic waste — aiding in healing and recovery.

1 to 2 days:

Continue to hydrate! The race may have been one day ago, but hydration can continue to help flush out the waste and promote recovery.

Consider going for short walks. Nothing too long; keep it low intensity!

Use a foam roll and stretch. If you feel up to it, consider booking a massage as well! Watch this video about how to stay injury free using a foam roller. 

1 week:

Continue to hydrate during this time, as well as foam roll and stretch to aid in recovery.

One question that many people ask after completing a race is “When can I get back into exercise?”   There is no definitive answer. Some experts recommend taking one day off for every mile you ran; so if you ran 26. 2 miles, then you should recover for 26 days. Others may recommend taking a few days off and then starting an active recovery program (light exercise) because it can assist in recovery. The best thing you can do is to listen to your body. If you are feeling any soreness or pain, take time off and recover. If you feel pretty good, slowly incorporate light exercise like biking, walking, swimming, or even slow running into your routine.

Recovery is just as important as training for the race. Take the time to let your body heal and enjoy your accomplishment!

Inclement Weather: Safety Tips for Running in Rain and Heat


Spring and summer marathon season is in full swing for western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh weather can be really unpredictable and downright challenging for outdoor races. But if you trained for your race, you are probably going to run it regardless of what Mother Nature has in store, right? After months of prep, training, and sacrifice, I’d like to think nothing short of a hurricane could keep me from running my planned event on race day.

Many runners start checking the forecast up to 30 days out from their event in an attempt to predict weather conditions and prepare for them. We hope for nothing but ideal conditions and the best temperatures on race day. But we all know anything is possible at this time of year. Here are some tips for weathering the storm, so to speak, in case Mother Nature decides to rain on your parade as you head to the starting line.

Running in the rain

You may have loved playing in puddles as a kid, but it’s a whole different ballgame when you are about to run your race. In my opinion, rain is probably one of the least of detrimental possibilities. But it can also be one of the most challenging because you can’t stay dry, which can cause other issues.

  • My number-one tip for running in the rain is to always try to stay dry as long as you can before the race starts. Try a poncho or garbage bag to cover yourself at the starting line and remove it right before the start.
  • Wear a hat with a brim to protect your face and sight lines as you run.
  • If you are running a longer race, like a marathon, consider having friends or family about halfway through who can help you swap out for new socks and shoes. This can help prevent blisters and sloshing feet.
  • Running in the rain means there is a possibility of chafing. Use BodyGlide or Vaseline on any parts where you could blister or chafe. I suggest inner thighs, feet, sports bra lines, and nipples for men.

Running in the heat

It’s flat-out challenging to run in the heat, and it’s one of my least favorite of the elements to run in. You need to be careful to avoid things like heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sunburn. Here are a few helpful strategies to set yourself up for success!

  • One of the most important things you can do is adjust your expectations before starting the race. Know that your performance may be lower, and that you may need to stop more often to hydrate and cool.
  • For clothing, you want to think protection and also light. I recommend always aiming for a SPF that’s going to protect your skin and then pile on top loose fitting, moisture wicking, and light-colored clothing. Always top it off with sunglasses to protect your peepers.
  • Hydration and fuel are extremely important in the heat. Many races have water and sports drink stops every mile, so make sure you use them to maintain your electrolyte levels.
  • Finally, in extreme heat pour water on yourself at water stops and take ice or sponges if they are available. This will help cool your body temperature and help you stay on track to finish.

I hope that you never need these tips for race day — but realistically, the weather is always changing and it’s important to be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way this spring and summer.

How do you prepare for unexpected temperatures or conditions? Leave your comments below!

Reasons to Run Sweepstakes Winners

Thanks to everyone who entered our Reasons to Run sweepstakes, your stories were truly inspirational! Good luck on Sunday. We’re rooting for all of you!

Congratulations to Amy Hoffman who was our Runner winner!

Reasons to Run Sweepstakes Winners |


Congratulations to Anne Sutton who was our Ultimate Fan winner!

Reasons to Run Sweepstakes Winners |


Check out all the inspirational messages on Reasons to Run sweepstakes page.

What to bring to a race

Are you running the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon on Sunday? Use our handy checklist to make sure you’re prepared and have everything you need to run the race of your life!

Race Day Checklist |

How to eat before, during, and after a run

With the change in season, you are probably heading out for longer runs! Proper fuel for a run is essential and can greatly impact performance. Wise, healthy food choices during a long run or hard workout can improve how you feel while pushing yourself —and even recovery after. With so many options, how do you incorporate them into training, and know what’s right for you? Here is the crash course on fueling for your run!

Before you run

 What to eat before, during, and after a run |

You definitely need a pre-run meal or snack a few hours before you head out to run. Make sure that it contains a couple hundred calories, carbohydrates, and some protein. This meal should be low in fat and fiber. Try low fiber cereal, low fat yogurt, a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter, pretzels and hummus, or a small sandwich on whole grain bread.

General guidelines suggest that runners should consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of exercise. If you are running longer than that, you may need up to 60 to 90 grams per hour. It’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different. It may take some experimenting to see what works well for you!

On your run

 What to eat before, during, and after a run |

The earlier the better

Stay on top of how you are feeling during your run. Once you are thirsty and hungry, you may be headed toward empty. To prevent hitting a wall or jeopardizing performance and recovery, try taking in fuel within 30 minutes of hitting the road.

Use sports drinks wisely

Sports drinks are great for supplying electrolytes during sustained exercise. Choose a sports drink that contains four to eight percent of carbohydrate. Below are general rules to follow:

  • For exercise lasting less than an hour, choose water.
  • For exercise lasting more than an hour, choose a sports drink.

Monitor what works

It’s essential to keep a training log. You can track key information like fuel ingested during the run, and how you feel after. Make a note if you felt sluggish, had stomach issues, or got a burst of energy. This will allow you to learn which fuel types and brands are best for you.


There are many types of fuel to choose for your run, ranging from energy bites to gels and bars. Try as many different flavors, brands, and consistencies as possible until you find what works. Some runners like solids; others can only take in liquid. It will be critical to figure that out before race day so you don’t get sick from something offered on the course.

Be creative

If your stomach can’t handle the products on the market, make your own. Aim for high-carbohydrate, low-fat, low-fiber foods to keep you adequately fueled. Try honey packets, jelly beans, homemade bars and gels, fig cookies, raisins, dates, dried cherries, pretzels, or gummy bears.

It’s important to have a steady supply of energy to sustain optimal performance during training and race day. When choosing fuel, be wary of empty calories that are high in sugar or have no nutritional value. Peak performance is highly dependent on quality foods and careful planning for refueling. Having a healthy balance will leave you feeling great and headed right for a personal best!

After your run

What to eat before, during, and after a run |

What you eat after your run is just as important as the fuel what you ate before and during your run. The foods you eat post-run will be the ones your body uses to help rebuild any damage and replenish lost nutrition that your body needs.

After a long run or race, it’s important to get a mix of carbohydrates and protein. A general rule of thumb to follow is for a three-to-one ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Examples of snacks include bananas, yogurt, chocolate milk, bagels, and fresh or dried fruit. For the post-run meal, you will want to make sure you consume lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and some (healthy) fats. Choosing a good meal will help kick-start the rebuild-and-repair process. Examples of post-run meals include a whole-wheat bread sandwich with lean meats, whole-grain pasta with sauce and lean protein, a salad with lean fish, scrambled eggs with veggie and protein toppings.

It’s important to have a steady supply of energy to sustain optimal performance during training and race day. When choosing fuel, be wary of empty calories that are high in sugar or have no nutritional value. Peak performance is highly dependent on quality foods and careful planning for refueling. Having a healthy balance will leave you feeling great and headed right for a personal best!

What’s your favorite way to refuel? Share your ideas in the comments for other runners! 

Exercise: What’s your motivation?

What's your motivation to keep going?

It’s 5:00 a.m. on a Monday morning, and your alarm goes off. It’s time to head to the local gym to get your daily workout in before the kids get up and you head to work or class. You think about how late a night it was and the fact that your bed is so warm and an extra hour of sleep would leave you feeling refreshed. Sounds familiar, right? You turn off the alarm and roll back over, convincing yourself that there will be many more Monday mornings to run.

You later realize that the day has slipped away and you never had the time you thought you would for that missed workout. You think about motivation and what the reasons are that you started in the first place. You may be thinking about all those other runners who got their workout in and how they have the energy to do it.

It’s a relatively easy question, but what’s your motivation? Why are you training for that goal of reaching the finish line? Who inspires you to wake up and try to be better? What do you have to gain or lose? When will you accomplish it? All these are questions that link back to why you started in the first place.

I’ll share my story. I started running marathons when my mom had cancer. I raised over $1800 for the American Cancer Society in her honor when I ran my first marathon. I continued running after that because it was always something that reminded me of her. I was also inspired by Rick and Dick Hoyt to pursue a dream of IRONMAN. Even though I accomplished my “Everest,” I still continue to train and strive for more. I love the way I feel, the people I have helped with their goals, and continuing to get better with every race.

So what are my recommendations for setting and committing to that goal, and using motivation to get there?

  • Purpose: Think about the things and the people most important to you. Consider how making them a part of your goal will help you accomplish it. What’s most important to you?
  • Pledge: Write down your goal, tell everyone you know, and work hard to get there. Some people run for charity, in honor of someone, or as an item in their “bucket list.” All are awesome reasons to get started.
  • Believe in yourself: You are destined to do great things and you just have to get started on them. Know that the power to reach your wildest dream is in the palm of your hand. Each and every day is a new beginning and a chance to make it happen for yourself! 

I’ll leave you with the best advice that Coach Matt has ever given me when I was working towards my goal of IRONMAN, something along the lines of this. At the end of the day it’s not about the medals, finish lines, or personal bests that you set. It’s what you can learn about yourself in the process. It’s about learning to challenge yourself and the experiences you will share with all those around you because of it. That’s more import than a time, a medal, or first place.

Tell us your motivation for a chance to win a handsome reward in our Reasons to Run sweepstakes. Whether you’re running the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon or rooting someone on, tell us what moves you for a chance to win a race weekend prize pack including a 2-night stay at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Downtown, a shopping spree at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and more!


Six dynamic stretches for runners

Stretching-For-RunnersTo stretch or not to stretch before running? I never used to do anything before any type of high-intensity exercise. Of course, I used to think that I was invincible at age 16. I thought I could do whatever I wanted to my body: pole vaulting over a 10-foot high platform, running full-speed head-first to break the wedge formation of the opposing team’s kick return, sacrificing my body to win a judo match, and more. Now — after being diagnosed with a bulging disc, herniated disc, and spinal canal narrowing, all before age 30 — dynamic stretches (or warm-ups) have become a big part of my workout routine. I devote at least five minutes to dynamic stretches before I start, and that also goes for sporting events such as races.

Dynamic stretches help prepare your body for movement by:

  • Gradually increasing your heart rate to get blood flowing through the body and to warm up the muscles
  • Stretching your muscles, getting them ready to perform in a safe and controlled fashion
  • Opening up your joints that you will be using in the activity you’re about to do

I started running races in 2009. Since then, I have done three full marathons, 12 half marathons, nine obstacle races ranging from seven to 12 total miles, five 5Ks, and seven 10Ks. Over the years I’ve gotten stronger and faster, but all those miles and strength-training routines have taken a toll on my body. Not to mention my body has also aged. I know our bodies change every year, and each year I am susceptible to injury if I don’t take care of it.

Whatever your fitness goals, safety comes first.

When you do dynamic stretches, always follow these guidelines:

  1. Make stretching part of your routine.
  2. Make sure you keep good form while performing the exercises.
  3. Make sure you are breathing normally while performing the exercises.

Dynamic stretches can be geared toward any type of workout (running, strength training, basketball, mixed martial arts, etc.).

Try out these six dynamic stretches for runners:

  1. Marches 10-15
  2. Toe walks 10-15 each leg
  3. Heel walks 10-15 each leg
  4. Walking lunges 10-15
  5. Frankenstein 10-15 (add skipping if advanced)
  6. Side leg lifts 10-15 each leg


What to expect when training for a half marathon

What to expect when training for a half marathon

Are you registered for the UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon or any other Pittsburgh Marathon weekend events? If so, you are officially 8 weeks away from crossing the finish line and achieving a new goal. You may feel excited, nervous, anxious, or indifferent — and that’s COMPLETELY normal!

Many runners don’t know what to expect out of training, and that’s okay. Even seasoned runners come across new and exciting milestones with each training season. Training for a race and then crossing the finish line has many definitions and meaning for runners. Regardless of what it means for you, it symbolizes a huge accomplishment.

Before you start a training plan, make sure that you have consulted with your health care provider. This journey will have a positive impact on your health, but you also want to make sure you are healthy enough to begin and train safely. Talk to them about current or previous injuries, and also your goals to ensure they are on board that it’s safe.

So what are some of the basics to expect during training?

  • Excitement: Nerves are good, but don’t let them make you overreach. This is a big challenge, and you need to make sure that you are adequately prepared and staying on your training schedule. If you start out too ambitious you can get burned out — or, even worse, injured.
  • Structure: Most training programs are about 12 weeks. They include running, strength training, and cross training. Training programs also are pretty consistent in having long runs on the weekends; after all, that’s when most of us have the extra time to train longer. Make sure you find a balance and don’t overdo it.
  • Fatigue: Regardless of your fitness level coming into training, it’s a lot of work. On average, you may be running four to five times per week or more. It’s important to make sure that you are eating and sleeping well. Rest days are always scheduled in the plan, and it’s important to take them. Rest is a workout.  Adhere to your rest days like any other part of your schedule, so you can continue to improve and avoid burnout.
  • Hunger:  Adding a significant amount of physical activity requires you to adjust your nutrition. Make sure that you are eating a well-balanced diet and getting all the vitamins and nutrients necessary to repair your muscles. Try to avoid skipping meals and make sure you are always hydrating.
  • Muscle soreness:  Muscle soreness is normal as you start your program and add miles each week. Make sure that you are working on mobility and stretching after each run. On the cross-training days, make sure you are giving your legs a break from running so they can have time to heal and recover.

Remember to have fun during this process and to listen to your body. It’s okay if you have to modify your training program to fit your needs and goals. Start strong now and keep your eye on the prize! We will see you at the starting line in May! 

Why I Run: Marathon Video Booth Expo

We asked runners of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon a simple question: Why do you run? Whether running to make or to honor a memory, for a sense of community, or for individual accomplishment, one thing was clear: the healthy activity of this race meant something special to each runner. Watch the videos to hear the stories in their own words. And to every runner who shared their story, thank you!

Why I Run Montage


















Hillary and Krista























Steph and Team Omni

Martha and Lisa







Rich and Donna

Elizabeth and Stephanie















My First Half Marathon: The Finish Line

After weeks and weeks of training, Kim takes to the course for the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon.  Friends are running with her along the way. Kim’s family is at the finish line. And so the stage is set for a memorable first half marathon. Watch to see how it turns out!

Thank you for watching Kim’s journey unfold. For tips on keeping your marathon momentum going, click here. Please subscribe to our blog for weekly fitness and health tips.