Did you just finish a marathon? Are you wondering what to do after your race to speed up recovery? Coach Whitney and I are going to share our best marathon recovery tips!
We share with you exactly what you can do for your body immediately after you cross the finish line, when you get home later that day, and in the next couple of days after your marathon.
Following these recovery tips will allow your body to have the optimal environment it needs to stimulate healing so you can get back doing what you love whether it is back on the road running or back in the gym hitting the weights!
Listen to the Podcast Episode during your next run!
Do NOT sit down as soon as you cross that finish line. As much as you are going to want to sit down, DO NOT!! Walk around for at least 20 minutes. If you can get in a cool down mile after the race, that’s even better!
Keep moving and walking (if you are experienced then go for a 1-2 mile easy jog to flush out some of the waste in your muscles). DON’T SIT! By walking, you promote active recovery. You’re still pumping blood through your fatigued muscles and simultaneously clearing all the excess metabolic waste, known as lactic acid, that you accumulated during the race. There’s another important reason why continuing to move is so important… Since your body has been pumping blood and oxygen to the working muscles, stopping abruptly can cause blood to pool in the lower extremities, decreasing your blood pressure. That can cause some runners to become dizzy or light-headed and even pass out! We don’t want that!
Bananas and oranges are great fueling options after a race! Chocolate milk is also a great option for those that can have dairy. If you are dairy free, there are vegan options that you can have. The only downside to those would be the carb count. They tend to not have much in the way of carbs. But you can have a banana or a bagel along with it.
Post race you need to have about 200-300 calories of simple carbs and 20% protein… (bananas and oranges are about 150 calories so think about having a small bagel or bread with that). Coach Whitney likes to bring plant based protein to the races since most don’t have non dairy options for protein!
Sip your water! DO NOT chug your water. Your stomach will thank you for the small sips. If you drink too much too fast after a hard effort run, it can upset your stomach. But you 100% need to be drinking water after your race!
Get back any hydration you lost by drinking some water. The recommendation is 16-20 oz. after finishing and then another within the next hour and continue until rehydrated. Your urine should be light yellow. This color indicates a person is hydrated. Any dark yellow/amber usually indicates dehydration. If you’re feeling that dry mouth, thirsty feeling, you’re already dehydrated and you need to, need to, need to get some water into your body!
Drink your water first, THEN work to replace your electrolytes. This doesn’t need to be done as soon as you cross the finish line. You can wait to start drinking your electrolyte drink, but make sure that you do it! Your body NEEDS to replace the electrolytes that you sweated out during your marathon.
Get in your electrolytes! Coach Whitney is a big fan of UCAN hydrate. Electrolytes are important so you don’t just urinate all the water your are consuming. The sodium in electrolytes is important to allow your body to absorb that fluid intake that you’re getting when you’re drinking your water.
I HATE ice baths!! HATE THEM! But I will soak my feet in a cool bath with some epsom salts. I usually do this after I put my feet up on the wall and use this time to have an electrolyte drink. Even if I have already had one. I sip on electrolyte drinks all day.
This doesn’t have to be an unbearable ice bath. The main objective here is to get your worn out muscles into a cool water bath. You can soak your feet and legs (up to your knees) in a cool tub that is 20 degrees cooler than your body temperature for 15-20 minutes. This will help to reduce any post-race inflammation.
DO NOT sit on the couch all day! You are going to be tired, yes, you just ran 26.2 miles! You are going to be sore. However your recovery will be a lot better and faster if you keep your muscles moving. Go for a few short walks, take the kids to the park, walk the dog, go to the grocery store…something to keep you moving.
I HATE yoga! But I do a restorative yoga “workout” (I don’t think you can even call it a workout) to help stretch and lengthen out the tight muscles.
Foam rolling is also fantastic. It will hurt the first time after your race. It will. But it is so good for you and will hurt less each time you do it. Roll as often as you can. After your shower, before bed, while dinner is in the oven, after you wake you, after your walk…as often as you want.
You have to keep moving! No matter how tired you are – don’t allow yourself to plop down on the couch and just stay there. You need to keep moving periodically throughout the day. Try to go for walks that are about 10 to 30 minutes in length, at least 2 to 3 times in the afternoon.
Any time I am sitting after a race, I try to elevate my legs.
Compression socks! I absolutely LOVE them! Not just after a marathon, but after long runs and hard workouts as well.
I also recommend the compression socks over the sleeves after a marathon! You want to make sure the blood is not “pooling” in your feet, that is the last thing you need after a marathon! Opt for the FULL socks after your marathon
When you are laying down and resting, make sure you are elevating those legs! Recline your legs with your feet above heart level compression sleeves may speed recovery and reduce the possibility of blood clots after the run. Research shows that compression sleeves around the calf muscle can improve performance also.
Refueling your body the day of your race is so important. You will most likely NOT be hungry for a few hours (some people are not hungry until the next day) but you need to refuel. You need to feed your muscles to help with recovery.
DO NOT binge that night at dinner, you will regret it! That’s not to say you shouldn’t go out and celebrate, just be aware that you rocked your digestive system during your race and it will take a little time for it to get back to normal. So enjoy your celebration meal, but maybe have a smaller portion.
Make sure that you are still replenishing your fuel. You can do this with small meals every 2-3 hours (25% protein, 20% fat, 55% complex carbs to build back your glyocogen stores that were depleted during your race).
Foam roll, get a massage, use a massage gun. Your muscles are going to be sore. You put your body through a very tough few hours and they deserve some extra love during the days following your race.
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Massage is something performed at SPARK Physical Therapy and other local Physical Therapy clinics. This helps with decreasing that inflammation in the muscles and allows the lactic acid build up to get pushed out of the muscles.
Foam rolling or getting a massage can help with DOMS, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. DOMS peaks at 24-48 hours after you’ve exerted your muscles. Foam rolling or getting a massage may be helpful at flushing out your muscles and decreasing the soreness you have.
Click HERE for more information on Muscle Care.
Like I said for the day of your race, DO NOT just sit on the couch! Get up and move around. Go for walks with the family, take your kids to the park, go for a gentle/easy swim, take a trip to Target, do something that will get your muscles moving.
Running- When you can start running again after your marathon will de very individual and will depend on A LOT of things. Your age, how hard to did you race, how well did you fuel during and after, how sore are you, how many miles were you running per week before the race, what are your plans for the next few months…Talk to your coach, they can help you figure out what YOUR recovery should look like.
In the days after your race, you want to keep moving – but not at the same intensity as before/during your race. Depending on your level of fitness, how sore you are, and how many races you have done this can vary but we are thinking an easy, conversational pace run.
Walking after a race can help you recover!
Enjoy some nice EASY runs and gradually add your miles back. But do not plan to race any races for 4-6 weeks. Your body needs time to fully recover. 26.2 miles is a big deal and your body needs time. Trust the recovery process and know that you will get to race again, just not in the first few weeks following your goal race.
As mentioned in step 2, it’s okay to keep moving but don’t try to do another race. It is recommended that you wait at least 3 weeks to jump into a 5-k coming off a half or full marathon and 4-6 weeks before doing another half! It’s important to give your body that time to rest and restore!
Post race blues…Almost every runner experiences this. You have just spent the last 16-20 weeks arranging your life around this goal race. You were either running, strength training, thinking about running, eating, thinking about eating, or foam rolling. Now you have raced your race and it feels like you have all this extra time and you are not quite sure what to do next.
This is a great time to reflect on how the training went, what will you do the same next time, what will you do differently. This is also a great time to do some of those things that you put off over the past few months. Catch up with friends, read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand. You can even start to think about what race you want to do next.
When you run a race, and you finish, you feel like you can do anything! Like I said before, you just did something amazing. You have a high and then the letdown happens. That’s okay. It is completely normal and I promise you that you’re not the only one who has felt that way. Are you wondering how do we get over this though? Try one of these and see if it helps – Set a new goal, schedule social runs with friends, scenic runs, or fun events. Focus on something new and kind to yourself to get you out of the letdown faster and back to running!
Running Recovery will look different for everyone, so some things may work for others that don’t work for you and vice versa! Try different things and see what works best for you! Everyone’s running story is different. Most importantly, remember to refuel and give your body the chance to really recover so that you can continue to do what you love, staying active and staying healthy!
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Get stronger, run faster, and become a lifelong injury free runner with our 16 week 1-on-1 Healthy Runner Coaching Program. Get the support, structure, and accountability from experts in the health and running industry. Personalized easy to follow plans tailored to your unique needs and busy life.
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If you are skeptical about getting a coach, I was too! I personally have invested in working with Coach Lu on our team because I need someone with my experience and expertise to guide me to my goal. Didn’t have that the first time around.
You may be someone who has run 10 or 20 marathons and you think it’s silly to get a coach because you have run a marathon 20x before and you know how to train to finish a marathon. My question to you is do you want to cross that finish line without pain this time or cross that finish line with a time you will be proud about now that you are older than all those previous races?
Dr. Duane Scotti, DPT, PhD, OCS is a running physical therapist, run coach, host of the Healthy Runner podcast, and founder of Spark Healthy Runner and has been a leader in the rehab and running community for 20+ years.
Duane initially started running as an adult, wanting to add some cardio to his gym sessions. After having a hip surgery, his doctor advised him to get off the treadmill and run outside. Without having fully recovered, Duane suffered a running-related hamstring tendon injury and many others as a novice runner.
As a coach, he has guided thousands of athletes back to running, finishing their first marathon, crushing a personal best, and even the elusive Boston Marathon qualifying time.
He is truly living his passion educating the running community that they don’t need to stop running to get over a running injury. Through his signature 1:1 coaching program, weekly videos, and podcast episodes, he empowers runners to get stronger, run faster, and enjoy lifelong injury free running. Dr. Duane truly believes that anyone can run and that all runners should be treated differently when recovering from an injury. He is on a mission to change the traditional thinking that running causes “overuse injuries” or “your body is just not meant to run” and you must “take a break” to get better. Through strength and run specific training you can grow a strong mind, strong body, and just keep running!
Duane received his Bachelor of Health Science degree and Master of Physical Therapy degree from Quinnipiac University in 2001 and 2003. He then went on to receive a clinical Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Ph.D. in Physical Therapy from Nova Southeastern University in 2017. Duane is a board-certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist, RRCA Certified Running Coach, Certified Mulligan Practitioner, certified in dry needling and has advanced training in spinal manipulation and rehabilitation for runners.
As an athlete, Duane is an adult-onset runner, avid half marathoner, and enjoys challenging himself to learn and grow in his personal running journey!
A native New Yorker from Long Island, Duane currently lives in Cheshire, Connecticut with his wife Deb and his two teenage daughters who are competitive volleyball players. They all love to explore new beaches along the east coast.
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You can teach an old dog new tricks!!! I have never considered myself a runner and I knew I needed to be smart about it because I am no spring chicken. Spark preached getting strong and healthy to be injury free and they practice what they preach. I am soooo glad I made the investment in me! I finished my half marathon last weekend and couldn’t be any happier! The program fed me all the steps I needed to essentially learn how to run long distance, build strength, nutrition help, a forum of other runners and probably most important was the 1:1 coaching. I had no idea how to tackle training for a 1/2 marathon and this program broke all of it down, had it individualized for me and we tweaked as we went to make sure I was staying healthy and strong. I had so many questions the week prior to my race and Coach Cat was always there for me and answering all the questions and issues I had-and believe me there were a lot! The biggest benefit I think I got was the strength. I am strong and fit. But most important was what I gained emotionally. I built confidence and strength I didn’t know I had, even at my age. Honestly could not have done this without Spark Healthy Runners!
My Healthy Runner journey started after I had battled bilateral achilles pain for a few months and was frustrated how it affected my running. As soon as I talked to Duane I knew I had made the right decision. His positivity, enthusiasm and genuine care are infectious. The training plan that was tailored to me included specific exercises to rehab my injury and I was so excited that I didn’t have to stop running. It took patience to only run slow for a few weeks but I trusted the process and it got me me to where I am now: running pain free. We made adjustments to the plan throughout whenever needed having someone in your corner that is always there with guidance and support throughout the process was invaluable.
I just ran my second half marathon, both with Duane’s coaching, and PR’d by over 9 minutes! I got all choked up in the last mile when I realized that I felt strong and could still kick it up a notch.
I’m so thankful for the Healthy Runner program, community and the entire coaching team for all the support!
Wanting to run more consistently, and to increase my long run distance and total weekly mileage, I was concerned about hip pain due to hip alignment issues. This is an issue I had when I trained for my first half marathon several years ago. Having listened to the Healthy Runner podcast for the past couple years, I knew Duane Scotti could help. I signed up for the four-month strength and running training program and am extremely happy with the results.
The program Duane and Coach Whitney developed for me was exactly what I needed. It was tailored to my needs and to my target race. Coach Whitney was very helpful, and with the biweekly coaching calls, we were able to fine tune the program based off my performance and feedback.
At the end of the program, I completed a 10K trail race feeling strong and pain free.
I highly recommend Duane Scotti and the Healthy Runner training programs.