You just ran a marathon. It might be your first, it might be your fifth, but either way you’ve just put your body through a heavy amount of stress both physically and physiologically.
It’s imperative to take your recovery just as seriously as your training—even consider it part of your training plan!
I recommend taking two weeks to straight up chill, followed up by four weeks of recovery. What you need to understand though, is that by “chill,” I don’t mean sit on couch for two weeks.
Here’s my game plan for the days and weeks after your race.
Grab the food offered in the post-race chute. It could be hours before you actually eat a meal, so suck down a drink, banana, protein bar—get some calories in your body, even if they aren’t your favorite options. Absolutely do not wait until you get to a restaurant and sit down.
Ice, Ice Baby
As soon as you are able post-race, soak legs in an ice bath for 10 to 15 minutes. Not only does it “hurt so good,” icing helps reduce inflammation.
Take the Stairs
Yes, you deserve to sit on the couch with your feet up the rest of the day. But moving around a little (walking to dinner, and yes, taking a flight of stairs) will help your body more than being completely inactive.
Two Weeks Post-Race
You’ve put a significant amount of strain on your body. Give yourself three days of no running or cross training. Your body needs the rest, and you’ve earned it! If you’re antsy, hop on your foam roller for some easy rolling.
Hydrate and Eat
Stay hydrated to help your body heal. And while you’ve accomplished a great thing, the stress also temporarily weakens your immune system. Eat healthy foods rich in vitamin C so you don’t get sick.
Relish in your accomplishment. You did it! Plan a dinner with friends to celebrate in the coming week. It’s always more fun when you celebrate with other runners who understand the excitement of finishing your first marathon.
Have a Plan
You’ve probably heard about the post marathon blues. One of the best ways to avoid this is to know your plan. You’ve been following a strict training plan for the last few months and it will likely feel strange to just finish and not have a plan in the coming days and weeks. Plan ahead and sketch it out before the race. Your plan doesn’t necessarily have to be running or exercise focused. I like to spend time in the kitchen learning new recipes during my downtime from running. Take the opportunity to add something else you love to your routine.
Ease back into Exercise
Don’t expect to jump back into running where you were at your pre-race peak. Start with easy runs, cross train and enjoy moving for the fun of it. Listen to your body and do what feels good to you.