I got the idea from Courtney to share my marathon recovery. So much of training for a marathon involves recovery. We work everyday to recover from a tough workout and to prepare our bodies for the next one.
Some people yo yo in and out of running after running a marathon or goal race, but I’m not really one of those people. I love running and when I don’t do it I miss it. Sometimes I get burnout or need a break and so I take one. Like everything else, it’s all about balance.
Training is never really just for one cycle or a couple months, but an evolution of a lifestyle. With that being said don’t think I’m crazy for running the Dopey Challenge in January at WDW, but you might not agree 😉 Every mile this year has basically prepared me for this race week in some way so at this point it’s just about staying healthy then slowly building the miles back up.
Remember I am not a fitness professional, just a girl sharing what I do post marathon. This post should be taken as advice from one runner to another. This is not the gospel. Find what works for you.
Recovery begins the moment you cross the finish line so let’s start there. Here’s what I do:
- Eat – Something within 30 minutes of crossing the finish line. Ideally this is a meal or snack to be followed by a meal with the right balance of carbs to protein.
- Walk – Whether it’s back to the hotel or light sightseeing for pictures, just do it. Trust me.
- Ice Bath – These feel rough the first couple minutes, but your body will thank you. Even if it’s a while before you get back to your house or hotel it will make a difference.
- Vitamin C Drink – I take a little vitamin C packet like this one, drop it in a bottle of water then drink. Marathons can take a toll on your body and this just gives it a little help. I don’t use these packets on the regular, but post marathon it’s a must for me. It helps me prevent the post marathon cold.
- Compression Sleeves or Pants – I usually opt for calf sleeves because you can slip them on under jeans on your way to dinner after a race. They help increase circulation and always make me feel better. It’s a hug for your tired legs.
- Rest – I like to try and get a short nap in after a race if I can, but if not I always try to get to bed early. This won’t be hard because you will be so tired.
- Legs Up on the Wall – Most mornings after a goal race you will see me with my legs up on the wall. I don’t know all the specific benefits of this but it works for me.
- Walk – Again more walking, but just do it. Your legs and entire body will feel so sore, but this helps. Tight muscles begin to loosen and you will eventually regain your natural walking gait. After Revel Big Cottonwood and the Chicago Marathon, the Mr. and I did some serious hiking/walking and it made all the difference.
- Eat – Indulge if you must, but still make sure you are getting nutrients that your body needs to recover. For me this usually means lots of plants and quality protein. I will also try to drink green juices and such as well for quick absorption of micronutrients if I can.
- Foam Roll – I can never seem to hop on the foam roller the evening of a big race, but I can tolerate it the day after. This is definitely one of those hurt so good kinda feelings.
- Epsom Salt Bath – Even if you only have 15-20 minutes this will help your body immensely. The magnesium in the salt + warm water aids = magic.
- Rest – Here it is again. This should be your top priority. Sleep allows our bodies to reset and repair.
3-5 Days After
- R&R – Bask in your accomplishment, watch Netflix and take it easy.
- Run or Bike – Be sure you take it easy, but if you feel good then go for a really short run or bike ride. I am a big fan of easy spinning 3-5 days after a marathon because there’s no impact on your joints, but it allows your muscles to stretch out.
- Yoga – Yoga is also really great during this time if it’s part of your normal practice.
- Mental Health – Marathons make my mind tired, so I like to take this time as a mental break. I try to not think about the next race or training cycle just yet.
- Sleep In – Use that extra time that you aren’t running to focus on getting plenty of rest.
- Meal Prep – We usually travel the day after a race so I take the time after that to prep healthy food for the next couple days/weeks. I like to double recipes and freeze half to pull out later. This also helps me make sure I am eating nutritious foods post race when I’m the most tired.
5-10 Days After
- Run – Get back to it! I am usually ready to go for a run after days of not running.
- Adjust Your Expectations – I like to start with a lot of recovery and easy paced runs before graduating to higher intensities or longer distances. Don’t expect to go right back to where you were before the marathon. That’s not very realistic.
- R&R – You should still be focusing on resting and relaxing when you aren’t trying to get back in the groove of running regularly.
- Chiropractor – I like to visit my chiropractor during this time window. My muscles aren’t as stiff and I don’t think it’s too much stress at once for my body.
1 Month After
- Remember – No matter how great you feel or how much you think you are bouncing back remember that you just ran a freaking marathon. Your body will more than likely still be healing from your big event.
- Be Patient – Some folks bounce back quicker than others so be patient if it’s taking you some time to get back to where you were.
This is the routine I’ve used after racing month after month this summer and then having a killer fall season. It works for me, but it might not work for you.
The most important thing you can do is listen to your body. Do what feels right for you where you are.
How do you recover after a goal race?
What does your routine look like?