There’s no getting around it – a marathon takes a huge toll on your body. Running 26.2 miles takes a lot of effort, and your body is going to be exhausted afterwards. It may be tempting to jump straight back into training once the race is over, but this is probably the worst thing you can do. It’s important to let the body heal itself after completing such a feat of endurance. Here are some things you can do to recover from a marathon (so you’re in excellent shape for the next one!).
Immediately after the race – You’ll probably feel cold once you stop moving, so arrange for some warm clothes to be ready for you at the finish line. Eat something small like a banana as soon as you feel up to it, and take an ice bath, have a short nap and then go for a short, gentle walk so you don’t seize up.
Day 1-3 post race – Do not run. Do not train. Give your body a chance to rest and rebuild on a cellular level. Carbs and proteins are the key here – they will fuel recovery and help to heal sore muscles. A gentle massage may help to avoid stiffness and soreness.
Day 4-7 post race – On one of these days, attempt a very gentle 2-4 mile run. Do some light cross training to encourage blood flow to the extremities. Try a contrast bath (alternating 5 minutes in warm and iced water to encourage blood flow). In the evenings, massage your legs and then soak in a bath with epsom salts.
Day 7-14 post race – You should be feeling a little less shattered now. Try a few 4-6 mile runs and increase the cross training to medium effort once or twice. No need for more ice baths, but continuing the gentle massages and epsom soaks won’t hurt.
Day 15-21 post race – Now you’ve taken a couple of weeks to nurse your body back to strength, you can slowly reintroduce longer runs and more intense cross training efforts. You’ll be the judge of the right distances and times, but listen to your body, and if there are any remaining aches or pains get them seen to by a health professional.