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The Right Way to Recover From a Marathon

Getting to that finish line might be the ultimate goal of running a marathon, but what about the minutes, days and weeks after? Running a marathon takes commitment, planning, discipline and a whole lot of sacrifice. For most runners, the race has been on their mind for months, and aside from a splurge meal, most don’t put a lot of thought into what they should (and shouldn’t) do in the hours, days and weeks after a big race. Here’s a day-by-day recovery plan that should help you bounce back quickly and completely.

Right after the race

For the vast majority of people, this is a huge effort and you’ll be tired and thirsty. First things first: attend to your immediate needs. Get a drink, a Gatorade, a Coke, whatever you’re feeling (you DID just run 26.2 miles). Get carbs, sugars, fruits. Your body is going to absorb anything it can, so whatever you can get and sounds good to you, go get it (or have your super-supportive buddy help you out!).

Next, get comfortable. If you’re cold, get warm. Most marathons have well-equipped recovery zones with those fancy space blankets. Get out of those sweaty race clothes, take a warm shower. Get clean, get comfortable.

If you want to soak, definitely do it. Both hot and ice baths are beneficial after a marathon, so do whichever sounds good to you.

A little later, you’ll feel famished. Many runners crave the most indulgent thing they can think of. Things they’ve abstained from during their training. Go for it, but remember you want to be good to your body as soon as you can, so it’s important to listen to it. But definitely, enjoy that meal, we know it’s a good one!

If you can, turn off that alarm and sleep in the next morning. In the days following, sleep and rest are incredibly important to help those micro tears in your muscles heal.  

The day after

First off, absolutely NO RUNNING. You might be thinking that’s the very last thing you’d want to do, but you’d probably be surprised. Not even an easy run. Not a slow run. Just don’t run. OK?

It’s best to avoid impact exercise for five days. Feel free to swim or do light yoga or take a walk (not a strenuous hike) if you must, but remember those muscular microtears. Generally, it’s recommended to take 5 to 7 days completely off after your marathon.

Eat mindfully and sleep. Sleep as much as you can! 

This is the time to splurge on a massage. It helps flush the muscles and repair the damage. Plus, it feels oh so good.

The next 5 days

Nope, still no running. Restorative exercise should still be your focus. Take a yoga class, do something different that may not have fit into your rigorous training schedule. If you’re feeling any pain, see a professional to get on the right track to repairing anything that could keep you from resuming your running routine when you’re ready. Restorative therapy can do wonders for marathon recovery. It’s a great time to replace training time with massage, physical therapy and active release therapy appointments, straight TLC for the body and mind.

7 to 10 days after

If you’re ready to run again, you’re free to do so. But go slow. No long runs for at least two weeks after the marathon. Enjoy getting back into casual runs and speedwork feeling rejuvenated and well-rested. While training is an essential part of finishing a marathon, recovery is just as important and should be taken just as seriously.

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