The easy guide to marathon recovery

Exercise Wellbeing

With the medal hanging around your neck, your personal record updated and all the obstacles you’ve overcome now in the rear-view mirror, there’s nothing left to do than celebrate the hard work and determination you put into the race. But if this is not your first marathon, you know that the same resilience that pushed you cross the finish line will be much needed in the next few days. Once the marathon is over, what comes next won’t be too much fun: aches, pains, tiredness, even getting up in the morning will be tricky, not to mention dreading every flight of stairs in sight.

But luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a secret to keeping most of the soreness and fatigue to a minimum and it’s called post-marathon recovery. Here’s what you need to know to get yourself back on track as quickly as possible.

Why is post-marathon recovery important?

Our bodies weren’t made to run 26.2 miles, so it should come as no surprise that pushing ourselves to the limit has a cost: dehydration, energy stores depleted, reduced muscle strength and weakened immunity are a few of the ways a marathon takes its toll on us. This is why it’s important to put in as much care and effort in the recovery process as in the pre-race training.

When should you start your marathon recovery?

If you’re wondering when is the best moment to start your recovery strategy, the answer might surprise you: as soon as you cross the finish line. Although it’s tempting to stop immediately after the race is over to catch your breath and savour that sweet victory feeling, this is not the best thing to do.

Keep reading to find out what should come next once the race is over.

marathon runners

Post-marathon recovery tips

1. Keep moving

You’ve crossed the finish line, but you’re not quite done yet. To help your body get used to normal life again, keep walking for 10-15 minutes after the race is completed. It might be the last thing you want to do, but trust us, your body will thank you. Slowly transitioning back to the usual pace of life is important for both your heart and your muscles.

2. Rehydrate

You’ve put your body through a lot, now it’s time to replenish the resources you’ve used up. First stop: the water station. Or if you’re running a virtual marathon, make sure you plan in advance at what point you’re going to get the water necessary for your post-marathon recovery. BUXTON® Natural Mineral Water comes in different bottle sizes, including the 25cl, 50cl and 75cl bottles equipped with a Sports cap. They’re also fully recyclable and made using other bottles as much as possible. So, you can start rehydrating while you’re doing your post-marathon walk and recycle your water bottles straight afterwards. Top tip: remember to drink little and often!

3. Refuel

Carbohydrates and proteins are your best friends in the first hours after the race. Carbohydrates will help you replenish your energy stores, while protein will help with muscle recovery. A banana is the best, but even if only processed foods are available in the first 30 minutes after the marathon is over, don’t hesitate to take a few bites. The priority is to give your body calories ASAP. Later on, you can have a proper meal with all the right nutrients your body needs.

4. Compression tights will help your recovery

Research has shown that wearing compression tights or socks for 48 hours after a marathon will improve functional recovery. Or in other words, it will help get you back on that treadmill a lot faster.

5. Consider an ice bath or a contrast shower

Ice helps decrease inflammation and can ease the pain, so whether it’s an ice bath or a shower alternating between hot and cold water, these are common techniques among professional athletes. If submerging your body under icy water sounds too challenging, contrast showers might be a better option. These are ideal to help get oxygen-rich blood flowing through your body and fast track your post-marathon recovery.

6. Elevate your legs

Elevate your legs above your heart for 10-15 minutes to help you fight some of that soreness, as well as to help you reduce inflammation. It will feel good too!

7. Sleep

Sleep is essential for recovery, so try to get as much shuteye as you can, even if that involves daytime snoozing. Getting those zzz’s is important, but if you’re still on an adrenaline high, you might be struggling a bit. When that happens, don’t worry as it’s completely normal. Just relax and don’t be tempted to reach for the phone. Get the rest you need, even if your mind is wandering off.

8. Very light exercise

Don’t get those running shoes out just yet. The next day after the marathon, your body is still recovering so low-impact exercise is the best way to go. We’re thinking walking or swimming, but without pushing your body too hard.

9. Don’t forget to stretch

You probably already know how important the pre-run stretches are to help prevent injury. But stretching is also useful to your marathon recovery. Just don’t do it immediately after the race when your body has already been through a lot. Instead, start light stretches in the days after the marathon to help with blood circulation and muscle recovery.

10. Add massages to your marathon recovery strategy

Massages are the best part about post-marathon recovery. But they have to be light and nowhere near the pressure applied during the usual sports massage. Don’t be tempted to go for one in the first 24 hours after the race though. Your body is still fragile, so it’s important to wait a day or two.

There you have it. Our top 10 post-marathon recovery tips. Now that you’ve got your post-race routine down, have you planned out your big day yet? If not, why not start with a solid hydration and nutrition plan? Here is one to get you started.

Plus, don’t forget to check out one of the greatest running events in the world: the Virgin Money London Marathon.