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How to recover from a marathon

Running a marathon, like Chicago, can leave the body depleted. Here are some recovery suggestions.

By Henry Howard

Running a marathon is an incredible feat, but finishing the 26.2-mile race is only half the battle. The recovery process after crossing the finish line is crucial for allowing your body to heal and avoid injury.

Here are some recovery tips that serve as a guide on how to recover from a marathon, which can also be used for those who complete half marathons or even ultras with perhaps a bit of tweaking:

Recovery steps immediately after a marathon

Rehydrate and refuel. The first priority is to replace the fluids and nutrients lost during the race. Drink plenty of water and sports drinks like Gatorade within the first few hours to rehydrate. Eat a mix of carbs and protein to help rebuild glycogen stores and repair muscle damage. Foods like bananas, protein bars, and recovery shakes or smoothies are great options. (I personally have a Gnarly Nutrition Vegan Protein Shake after completing a race or long run.)

Treat any marathon related injuries properly with heat and MEAT.

Care for injuries. The repetitive motion of long-distance running can lead to common injuries. Treat any marathon related injuries properly with heat and MEAT (this is why MEAT is better than RICE). See a health-care professional if pain persists.

Stretch and massage. Gentle stretching can help alleviate post-race muscle tightness and soreness. Focus on major muscle groups like hips, thighs, calves. Some races have massage therapists afterward. You could also schedule a sports massage soon after the marathon. Either way, a massage can aid recovery by increasing blood flow and working out muscle knots.

Recovery in the days after a marathon

Get some rest. Your body needs time to recuperate after the intense effort of a marathon. Take it easy and get more sleep than usual in the days following the race. The general rule of thumb is to take one day off running for every 10 miles of race distance. But more importantly listen to your body. Some soreness and fatigue is normal, so don't jump immediately back into hard training. Focus on active recovery like yoga, swimming, cycling or even hiking to keep the body active without the stress of running.

Listen to your body. Experiencing fatigue, soreness and a loss of motivation after a marathon is normal. Avoid the temptation to jump back into hard training until your body feels fully recovered. Build back up gradually rather than rushing into another race right away. Be patient

and take the proper time to recover.

Recovery when the marathon doesn’t go as planned

There are ways to learn from a disappointing race and come back stronger.

Running a marathon that does not go as planned can be mentally and emotionally difficult to process. But there are ways to learn from a disappointing race and come back stronger. Here are some things to process in the days after such a marathon.

Reflect honestly on what went wrong. Ask yourself some tough questions. Were you properly trained? Did you go out too fast early on? Were conditions bad? Identifying key issues will help create a plan to improve for next time.

Maintain perspective. One bad race does not define you as a runner. Appreciate completing 26.2 miles, which only a small percentage of people can do. Be proud of your effort and courage to take on such a challenge.

Learn from what went wrong. Analyze your training and make adjustments. Consult a coach to receive guidance in building a training plan, increasing fitness and plotting race strategy.

Stay positive mentally. Savor the accomplishment of finishing. Focus on enjoying running and having fun with training runs. Surround yourself with supportive people who will encourage you to bounce back.


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