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The ultimate marathon recovery guide

Gretta Philps Guides Health and fitness

Marathon runner crossing the finish line

Completing a grueling 26.2 miles and finally crossing the finish line is a huge achievement. You've dedicated months of your life to training before work, after work and at the weekends, then took your body to the limits. Running through the finish line and collecting the medal makes it all worthwhile. But now, its time to take care of yourself, and this is the guide ensure a quick and easy recovery.

What to Do Immediately After You Finish

Your active recovery starts at the finish line. What you do immediately can make a difference.

  • Take the Space Blanket They Hand You: Your body will cool down swiftly even if you were overheated coming into the finish. Use the heat sheet they give you so you don't have a sudden body temperature drop, which can result in uncontrollable shivering and even collapse.
  • Keep Moving If You Can: Keep walking slowly around the finish area as you snack and drink up. Walk for at least another 15 minutes so your muscles do not knot up.
  • Immediate Marathon Recovery Foods and Drink: The best time to restore your muscle energy and fluids is now. Drink sports drink and water. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can dehydrate you further. If you haven't urinated within six hours following the marathon, seek medical help, you may have had kidney shutdown. Eat some high carbohydrate snacks and salty snacks. Potassium sources such as bananas are good.
  • Nausea: Be aware that many people experience nausea after finishing. If you vomit, you will still need to replenish yourself, and sports drink is one of the best ways to do it. Sip it to keep it down.
  • MassageGentle massage is good, but avoid vigorous stretching as your muscles are already overworked and damaged.
  • Dry Clothes: Getting into clean, dry clothes will help stop you losing body heat. It's best to have some available in your race gear bag or brought to you by a spouse or friend. 

Recovery at Home. 

Eat Protein, Sleep, Then keep Moving

  • The Ride Home: Plan your trip back home to reduce the time spent sitting in one position or you may be too stiff to get out of the vehicle. If you are traveling home by airplane, give yourself a day to unkink before taking the flight.
  • Move Another 15 Minutes: After you get home, plan another 10 to 15 minutes of slow walking to keep your body from freezing up.
  • Cool Shower or Epsom Salts Soak: Stay out of the hot tub. A hot bath may further damage already muscles that are already soaking in lactic acid. A lukewarm bath or shower is good. Use a whole box of Epsom salts in a lukewarm bath for a body soak to help relieve pain and soreness.
  • Celebration Meal and Marathon Recovery Food: A high carb meal with protein will give your body the fuel to start recovering. This is the time for the pasta party. Avoid alcohol. If you really must have a toast, a low alcohol or no-alcohol beer is the safest choice. Continue to drink sports drinks, fruit juices, and water throughout the evening.
  • Pain Relievers: You need to first know your kidneys are working and your hydration is returning to normal as evidenced by being able to urinate. Then you can take your pain reliever of choice. We recommend a good mix of our CBD relief balm to be directly applied to sore joints and the CBD oil orally.
  • Treat Your Blisters and Pains: Use​ a good sterile technique to drain any tense blisters. Cover any hot spots and minor blisters with blister bandages to allow them to heal.
  • Go to Bed: You may sleep like the dead, or you may have difficulty sleeping due to pain and stiffness, but sleep is the time the body best repairs itself. Nap and sleep after the marathon. A lot of athletes have reported huge benefits from taking Tranquil CBD sleep aid.


Cross-Train Before You Resume Running

Recovery from a marathon has long been thought of as: Take X number of days off, then start running again. But, a new model for marathon recovery values the healing power of getting oxygen-rich blood to damaged muscle tissue. One way to do this is to swim or aqua jog. Both are good because you simply move some blood around the body, and speed up the healing time of the cellular damage that occurred in your leg muscles during the race. 

Also, there is some benefit to being in water for the lymph system, as the hydrostatic pressure of the water gives your lymph system a gentle massage that helps flush out the toxins and waste products you might be holding onto post-marathon. Biking, cross-training on the elliptical and hiking are good choices, too—all three of these activities meet the criteria of getting blood to your damaged muscles.

So when do you start running? That's very much up to you. For many of you, the thought of going two or three weeks without running is hard to imagine, yet many elite distance runners take a long break after a marathon. This is a great time to cross-train, which could include activities as gentle as a brisk walk or a hike. The key here is that you should give your body some time to realign and heal from the stress of a marathon.

Get Stronger Before You Start Training Again

The good news: You have time to do some serious, focused non-running ancillary work at this time. I refer to this as General Strength and Mobility (GSM) and, in the days following the marathon, it's a great time to complete this type of work.

 Post-marathon GSM practice proves beneficial because every runner has weaknesses, often with their minor muscle groups, and this work helps strengthen those areas. Use the lunge matrix warm-up and the myrtl routine before and after cross-training. When you return to running, keep these elements as part of your training, and you'll be that much closer to running injury-free.

Remember, the reason to do GSM work is to stay injury-free, which will allow you to run more miles and more intense workouts. This work can be a bit boring and definitely is not as enjoyable as a nice run with friends. But if you want to improve as a runner, then you need to improve your basal level of general strength, and you need to improve your hip and ankle mobility. Think of this work as an insurance policy again injury for your next block of serious run training.

Racing a marathon is a huge accomplishment, and you should be proud to finish. But you should also take the steps following the marathon to ensure that your next phase of serious run training goes well. Invest in yourself with everything from a sports massage, high quality recovery supplements to daily GSM work. If you do these things, you'll be ready to run even faster the next time you toe the line.

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