Congratulations! You’ve got a 26.2 finisher’s medal hanging around your neck; now it is time to celebrate and begin your marathon recovery plan. Here are a few tips for the days following your marathon.
Immediately following a marathon, I attempt to drink an entire bottle of water (the standard 16oz size.) Next, drink a beer! Yes, you heard me right. I love making my next drink a light fizzy beer. There is something about those ice-cold bubbles. Drink whatever sounds good to you, as long as you hydrate!
One of my favorite things about running a marathon is how hungry I am in the days following. One of my least favorite things is that usually nothing sounds good right after crossing that finish line. Try to get a few simple plain foods in right away to begin to restore glycogen levels–a piece of a bagel, a banana—and then focus on healthy fats and proteins. You’ve burned a lot of calories over the last few hours, and this is what your body needs to begin to recover.
You may have worked bananas into your pre-race routine, but keep a bunch around for your post-race recovery too. I also often keep a banana on my bedside table in case I wake up hungry in the first couple nights after a race. They are rich in potassium and aid in repairing those tired and achy muscles.
Take Up Golf?
Ok, not really. But, do plan on spending some time with a golf ball, a tennis ball, and a foam roller for the week after your marathon. In fact, I even pack a golf ball in my luggage if traveling to a race. I roll the golf ball beneath my bare feet, use the tennis ball on my quad muscles and my IT band, and I revere my favorite foam roller for my legs, calves, back, glutes, and just about everything.
That’s right–more exercise, even after a marathon! In fact, I think swimming helps long-run recovery so much that I actually swim right after each of my Sunday long training runs too. Even if you aren’t the greatest swimmer, indulge in a few easy laps on the days following your marathon. The no-impact workout will leave you feeling refreshed while helping to promote circulation to tired muscles.
I think my gym membership only pays for itself in the months I run a marathon. Since I rarely spend time as a gym rat, I use the weeks after a marathon to try some new classes. I like to spin the day after a marathon. It makes me feel like I’ve done “something” and wards off those post-race blues. I also take advantage of yoga and other stretching classes.
I’m a big believer in deep tissue massage for runners, and rationalize spending money on massage since the rest of the sport is relatively inexpensive. Find a sports massage therapist near you and tell them what is bothering you post-race. Great therapists will not only work on helping your muscles recover, they will show you additional stretches and techniques to expedite marathon recuperation. Leave for your marathon with a massage already booked in the days after your race.
Get in the bath
Epsom salt baths are a relatively new discovery for me. Now I look forward to them for their restorative benefits—soaking in the magnesium rich salts can reduce inflammation and helps restore electrolytes to your muscles. Pick up a bag of Epsom salts from your local drugstore, add a cup or two to your bath and relax.
Not just because you are tired, although that may be the case. Quality sleep is when your body is in healing over-drive, repairing tissue, bones and muscles.