How To Recover After Running a Marathon
Here is an outline for a nutrition, rehab, cross training, and running plan for the three weeks after a marathon. This rehab plan is guaranteed to help you recover faster and return to training as quickly as possible.
Immediately post race
The immediate post race recovery protocol can be a little difficult to plan ahead of time.
Focus your energy on pre-race nutrition and race strategy.
After you cross the finish line, try to get something warm and get to your clothes. You’ll probably get cold very quickly, and while it won’t help you recover, getting warm will sure make you feel a lot better.
Try to find something to eat. Bananas, energy bars, sports drinks, fruit, and bagels are all good options.
Many marathoners can’t eat soon after finishing, so grab a handful of items and make your way to friends and family.
When you get back to the hotel room or home, you should consider an ice bath.
Fill the tub with ice and cold water and submerge your lower body for 15 minutes. You don’t need the water too cold, 55 degrees is optimal, but anything colder than 65 degrees will do.
After your ice bath, you can take a nap or walk around to try and loosen the legs.
At this point, you’ve done about all you can do for the day. Relax and relish in your accomplishment.
Cross Training: none
Recovery Tips and tricks:
- Soak in a hot tub for 10-15 and stretch well afterwards.
- Each lots of fruits, carbohydrates, and protein. The Carbs and protein will help repair the muscle damage while the fruits will give you a boost of vitamin C and antioxidants to help combat free radical damage and boost your immune system.
- Light massage will help loosen your muscles. Don’t schedule a deep tissue massage yet, just a gentle effleurage massage or a light rolling with the stick.
Running: One day, 2-4 miles very easy
Cross Training: Optional – Two days, 30-40 minutes easy effort. The focus is on promoting blood flow to the legs, not building fitness.
Recovery Tips and Tricks:
- Continue eating a healthy diet
- Now is the time you can get a deep tissue massage if you have areas that are really bothering you or that are injured.
- Contrast bath your lower body. To contrast bath, take large trash cans and fill one with hot (hot bath temp) water and the other with ice water (cold enough so some ice still doesn’t melt) and put your whole lower body into the cold. Hold for 5 minutes and then switch to the hot for 5 mins. Repeat 2 or 3 times, ending with cold. This helps rush blood in and out of the area, which facilitates healing.
- Epsom Salt Bath. About an hour before bed, massage your legs out with the stick or self massage and then soak in a hot/warm bath with 3 cups epsom salt and 1 cup baking soda for 10-15 minutes. After the soak, stretch real well and relax. This always perks up my legs quite a bit and you’ll also sleep great.
Running: Three or four days of 4-6 miles very easy.
Cross Training: Optional – Three sessions total. One easy session and two medium effort sessions for 30-45 minutes.
Running: Begin to slowly build back into full training. My suggestion is four to five runs of 4-8 miles with 4 x 20 sec strides after each run.
Cross Training: 1 easy session, 1 medium session, and 1 hard session of 40-50 minutes.
Don’t worry about losing any running fitness during this recovery period.
It’s much more important to ensure proper recovery so you can train even harder during your next training cycle.
If you don’t let yourself recover now, you’ll simply have to back off your workouts when it matters and put yourself on the verge of over-training.
Try not to schedule any races until 6 weeks after your marathon.