From the HSS Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center
Once you've completed a marathon and achieved your goals, there are measures you can take to facilitate recovery, decrease post-race discomfort, and return to running without injury.
The following are marathon recovery tips to bounce back after crossing the finish line and help you feel better, faster:
- Eat and drink something within 30 minutes of finishing the marathon and take in healthy carbohydrates and proteins to replenish used energy stores. Over the next 2–3 days, eat often to aid recovery and avoid junk food.
- Ice sore muscles and aching joints, 15–20 minutes per session, for as long as pain and swelling persists. Try cooling sore muscles in a cold water pool or an ice bath, and avoid sitting in a “hot tub” or warm bath until the pain and swelling has gone away, since the heat will increase inflammation and will be counter-productive to recovery.
- Take a short walk on marathon night followed by gentle stretching that focuses on the leg muscles.
- The day after the marathon, it is important to warm up muscles enough to safely stretch them. The warm up can be an easy bike ride, swim or light jog that is no longer than five miles, all performed at a conversational pace.
- Arrange for a gentle, post-event massage from a massage therapist familiar with a marathoner’s needs. A massage two hours after finishing the race will help to flush out the metabolic waste products of exercise that build up in muscles during the marathon. Avoid deep tissue, shiatsu, and Swedish massages which further inflame already sore muscles. Some runners prefer to wait 2-3 days until they are less sore to have a massage.
- Focus on recovery the week after the marathon and run no more than 25 percent of average, pre-marathon miles during this week.
- Run on grass, gravel or dirt trails to minimize impact on already sore muscles and joints.
- During the month following the marathon, ramp up mileage gradually and avoid long runs and speed work during the early recovery phase.
- Create post-marathon race goals, whether it is a 5K or the next marathon, in order to stay motivated to continue running after the big day.
Robert Maschi, PT, DPT, CSCS, is an advanced clinician and senior physical therapist at the HSS Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center. A competitive marathon runner, he leads the HSS Runner's Performance Program team, dedicated to helping runners of all ages and skill levels prevent injury and enhance their performance.