Lisbeth Hoyt PT, DPT, CSCS
After spending months preparing for your big race, you probably haven’t given much thought as to what you’ll do after, besides celebrate. But just like recovering from your long runs, recovering from your marathon is equally important. Even if you don’t have a race on the calendar for months, proper recovery starting when you cross the finish line can set you up for success in the weeks that follow. Some experts say it takes about 1 day per mile to recover, but that doesn’t mean you need to do nothing for 26 days. But if you want to do nothing, by all means go ahead, you earned it!
The day of:
Congrats! You made it across the finish line and probably are ready to sit down after getting your medal, but don’t sit just yet! Try to keep those legs moving for the next 10-15 minutes to keep the blood flowing. And yes, the very slow walk to meet your friends and family counts. If you’re running the NYC marathon, the finish line is designed to keep you moving for another mile or so to get out of the park.
Within the first hour of finishing, aim to get some fluid and carbs in your system. Those recovery bags should have you covered, but if there’s something specific you like, put it in your checked bag or have someone meet you with it. Aim to eat a solid meal with a good balance of carbs, proteins and fats within 3 hours of finishing. Even if you aren’t hungry, your body just used a lot of energy to get you through 26.2 miles and you need to replenish what you lost.
The day after:
Put that medal back on and go for a walk (or waddle) for a little while… just watch out for stairs. Sitting for long periods the next day will promote stiffness and prolong recovery. If you just raced in a new city, go see a few sights, get your medal engraved and of course, treat yourself to a great recovery meal. Fluid and carb intake continue to be important today. You also may not have slept well last night due to a combo of sore legs and post race excitement, so schedule some nap time today in between celebratory activities and exploring. If you have to fly home today, compression socks will be helpful to minimize in flight swelling that can occur.
The week after:
By now you’re probably a lot less sore and back to walking around normally. Your post marathon appetite may not have subsided, so continue to eat well and hydrate often. This week is a good time to schedule a visit to your physical or massage therapist to promote muscle recovery and healing. You may also feel ready to try a gentle yoga class or stretching on your own, but I’d hold off on running just yet. Your muscles are still healing and even though you’ve mentally recovered (maybe), there are still physical processes happening throughout your body.
The month after:
At this point, you’ve probably decided you’re never running a marathon again or you’ve set your sights on the next one. Take this time to mentally reflect and journal about your last training block and race. What went well? What didn’t go well? Where can you improve? Is it time to get a running coach? Whether it’s your first marathon or tenth, we learn something new every marathon cycle that can help set our goals for the next one.
And if you haven’t gone for your first run yet, now’s the time! Aim for something short, 20-30 minutes and don’t be alarmed if your legs feel like Bambi’s – it may take a few runs to get your stride back!
By Lisbeth Hoyt PT, DPT, CSCS