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Post Marathon Recovery: Essential Steps for Optimal Healing

First of all, congratulations! Running a marathon is truly an incredible feat. But no matter how rigorous your training regime is, running 26.2 miles has a massive effect on your body. While you run, your glycogen (or sugar) levels deplete, your cortisol (or stress hormone) levels rise, your blood flow increases, and your muscles undergo […]

Published: 6/11/24

First of all, congratulations! Running a marathon is truly an incredible feat. But no matter how rigorous your training regime is, running 26.2 miles has a massive effect on your body.

While you run, your glycogen (or sugar) levels deplete, your cortisol (or stress hormone) levels rise, your blood flow increases, and your muscles undergo constant micro-traumas.

Your body will gradually repair itself in the days and weeks following the big event, but this imbalance leaves you more susceptible to injuries. Fortunately, this guide offers essential recovery tips to follow after your marathon to ensure optimal healing.

Replenish Your Nutrients

Running a 26.2-mile race is an extreme test of endurance. After your marathon, it’s essential to replenish those lost nutrients with a well-balanced meal so your body can properly heal.

The best foods to eat after a marathon include:

  • Carbs – You may be familiar with carb-loading before a race to improve your athletic performance, but eating carbs afterward is just as beneficial. Carbohydrates are essential to restoring your glycogen levels and rebuilding your muscle proteins.
  • Protein – Like carbs, protein helps repair your muscles and is crucial to recovery. Eating protein after your run also helps alleviate fatigue and muscle soreness. For best results, you’ll want a blend of carbs and protein like milk, bagels with peanut butter, and chicken with rice or pasta.
  • Salty foods – Salt helps restore the electrolytes you lose while sweating. Some salty post-race snack options are pretzels, trail mix, jerky, and pickles.
  • Supplements – While a balanced diet will help you meet your nutritional needs, vitamin supplements like glutamine, omega-3, magnesium, and vitamin D are an effective alternative to replenishing your nutrients. You can also find these vitamins in fruits like bananas, oranges, and berries.

Running accelerates digestion by increasing your blood flow, so it’s best to eat within 30 minutes after your run for optimal nutrient absorption.

Hydrate

You lose a lot of fluids when you run. After your race, don’t forget to rehydrate with 16 to 24 oz of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise. You can do this by drinking water or picking up a sports drink that’s packed with electrolytes.

Remember not to drink too much water at once, as this can flush away your electrolytes. The goal is to maintain a fluid balance that can alleviate muscle soreness and aid the delivery of nutrients throughout your body.

Passive Recovery

After you finish your race, it’s important to take it easy and give your muscles time to heal to avoid the risk of injury. To that end, try these passive recovery techniques that incorporate gentle, healing movements.

Stretch

Stretching is one of the most effective ways to soothe sore muscles and maximize post-marathon recovery, but static stretches can be too intense for inflamed muscles after a race.

Instead, do dynamic, low-impact stretches to minimize injury. Additionally, wait a few hours to give your muscles time to rehydrate and recover before you begin static stretches and foam rolling.

Massage

The days after a marathon are the prime time to massage those achy muscles. Massages are beneficial for your wellness as they increase circulation and flush out lactic acid and waste products in your muscles, thereby alleviating soreness.

Cold Water Immersion

Cold water immersion, like ice baths or cold showers, has similar benefits to stretching and massages: it helps flush lactic acid, increases circulation, and aids in the delivery of nutrients to the muscles.

These effects help reduce muscle pain and alleviate delayed onset muscle soreness.

Sleep

After your race, taking a nap might be the only thing on your mind. Lucky for you, sleep is a necessary factor in muscle recovery after exercise.

Sleeping regulates the hormones that aid in muscle repair and growth. Quality sleep can also accelerate the healing process by replenishing the glycogen stores that restore your energy.

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Set New Goals

When you’ve dedicated months of rigorous training and energy to one big day, you may feel down once it’s over. In fact, post-race blues are a common experience among runners. But, fortunately, there are ways to navigate it:

  • Take a break – Take 5 to 7 days off running. By implementing a recovery period and allowing your body to heal, you’re tending to your body to ensure you can continue training in the future.
  • Return to running slowly – It’s tempting to jump back into the training you’re used to, but this can cause injury. After your days off, start with short, easy runs.
  • Make new goals – Make new goals to keep yourself motivated, like pursuing future races or venturing into a new hobby.

And of course, don’t forget to celebrate your incredible achievement.

Keep Running With Chuze Fitness

Running a marathon is a true test of endurance that requires a lot of rest and recovery. As your body heals from the mico-traumas of intense exercise, you can help it along by replenishing your nutrients, hydrating, and implementing passive recovery strategies.

Additionally, you can facilitate long-term running success and return to running safely with Chuze Fitness. We believe gyms should be friendly, clean, and accessible to all, no matter your expertise. So, whether you’re running marathons or you’re just starting out, you can begin a supportive fitness journey by joining the Chuze Fitness family today.

Sources: 

National Library of Medicine. Marathon training and immune function. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17465622/

Nutri Advanced. Best Supplements For Marathon Runners. https://www.nutriadvanced.co.uk/news/best-supplements-for-marathon-runners/

Runner’s World. What causes DOMS and what can you do to ease it? https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/a41869140/doms/

Reviewed By:

Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.

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