If you have recently completed a marathon, congratulations! You accomplished one of the more noteworthy feats in aerobic fitness, a 26.2 mile trek that was likely physically and mentally grueling.
That said, one of the best parts of the marathon process is taking time off to recover, bask in the glory of your achievement, and begin planning your next race goal. This period may seem easy in theory, but it must be traversed carefully to ensure proper recovery and mitigate setbacks.
Here are four quick tips for better marathon recovery.
Utilizing the next morning
Running (or physical activity in general) may be the last thing on your mind the day after your marathon, but it is crucial that you work in some type of light activity to properly kick off your recovery cycle. Whether it is a light jog, a walk, or a cross training session (swimming, cycling, or pool running work fine), this segment will promote healing blood flow and loosen up your muscles. Your body will thank you for this activity later.
Taking enough time off
It may seem obvious, but be sure to take as much time off as your body needs. If the marathon was a once-in-a-lifetime goal for you, your recovery period may be a tad longer than someone who clicks off several marathons a year. In most cases, a period of 2-3 weeks is usually long enough to promote recovery without sacrificing baseline fitness. Either way, you know your body best, so be sure to listen to it.
Marathons can physically punishing in the moment, but they can also have lasting effects in the weeks after you cross the finish line — one being immune system suppression. Therefore, it is easy for recent marathon finishers to get sick after the race. This notion in mind, do your best to cradle and support your immune system during your recovery period. Get enough rest, utilize supplements, and keep the fluids rolling to ensure you are keeping yourself healthy and ready for your return to the roads.
Easing back in
When you finally get back into running, it is imperative that you ease back in; start with low mileage at an accessible pace and gradually build both back up. Be cautious during these first few days, as you may have lingering aches or pains from the race that were easily missed during your period of inactivity. Once you have found your feet — both literally and figuratively — you can start to increase the intensity and work towards new aerobic gains.