What you do in the days post-marathon is almost as important as what you do in the days before. Recovering after running a marathon is vital and something that many people neglect. Having run 26.2 miles, you may not feel like moving again for a while, but you shouldn’t allow your nervous system to sleep completely. Long-distance running takes its toll on your body and leaves you at risk of dehydration, extra fluid in your muscles and even damaged muscle tissue.
We recommend you allow a week for marathon recovery, broken down as follows:
0 – 2 days: Complete rest – congratulate yourself for having run a marathon! Make sure you drink water in small amounts, frequently, to help with the dehydration and flush out the extra lactic acid that builds up after intense exercise.
2 – 4 days: Full body stretching, with particular focus on legs. Supplement this with some light activity such as swimming, due to the low impact nature of the activity.
To complement stretching, try foam rolling too. This is a form of self-massage along with a ‘foam roller’, used by athletes to release muscle tightness and tension. Use your body weight to apply weight over the roller to stretch out the tight muscles – it will be painful (and if an area really hurts, go easy on it), but it reduces muscle stiffness and leads to a better recovery.
5 – 7 days: Up the ante slightly by adding in some light, short-duration jogs (around 30 minutes). Supplement this with lots of stretching / foam rolling.
The overall aim of this plan is to recover safely and effectively by keeping the nervous system moving gently. Therefore, exercise is key, but the amount done should be minimal and low impact.
As well as the obvious physical factors, the stress of running a marathon can affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flu, so it’s important to eat a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins, and drink lots of water. In addition, some people often find they gain weight after running a marathon – do not be alarmed, this is usually due to water retention and will pass.