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Elizabeth Bailey Weil: 9 Tips for Marathon Recovery

Congratulations! You’ve got a 26.2 finisher’s medal hanging around your neck; now it is time to celebrate and begin your marathon recovery plan. Here are a few tips for the days following your marathon.

Drink

Immediately following a marathon, I attempt to drink an entire bottle of water (the standard 16oz size.) Next, drink a beer! Yes, you heard me right. I love making my next drink a light fizzy beer.  There is something about those ice-cold bubbles. Drink whatever sounds good to you, as long as you hydrate!

Eat

One of my favorite things about running a marathon is how hungry I am in the days following. One of my least favorite things is that usually nothing sounds good right after crossing that finish line. Try to get a few simple plain foods in right away to begin to restore glycogen levels–a piece of a bagel, a banana—and then focus on healthy fats and proteins. You’ve burned a lot of calories over the last few hours, and this is what your body needs to begin to recover.

Go Bananas

You may have worked bananas into your pre-race routine, but keep a bunch around for your post-race recovery too. I also often keep a banana on my bedside table in case I wake up hungry in the first couple nights after a race. They are rich in potassium and aid in repairing those tired and achy muscles.

Take Up Golf?

Ok, not really. But, do plan on spending some time with a golf ball, a tennis ball, and a foam roller for the week after your marathon. In fact, I even pack a golf ball in my luggage if traveling to a race. I roll the golf ball beneath my bare feet, use the tennis ball on my quad muscles and my IT band, and I revere my favorite foam roller for my legs, calves, back, glutes, and just about everything.

Swim Laps

That’s right–more exercise, even after a marathon! In fact, I think swimming helps long-run recovery so much that I actually swim right after each of my Sunday long training runs too. Even if you aren’t the greatest swimmer, indulge in a few easy laps on the days following your marathon. The no-impact workout will leave you feeling refreshed while helping to promote circulation to tired muscles.

Spin

I think my gym membership only pays for itself in the months I run a marathon. Since I rarely spend time as a gym rat, I use the weeks after a marathon to try some new classes. I like to spin the day after a marathon. It makes me feel like I’ve done “something” and wards off those post-race blues. I also take advantage of yoga and other stretching classes.

Massage

I’m a big believer in deep tissue massage for runners, and rationalize spending money on massage since the rest of the sport is relatively inexpensive. Find a sports massage therapist near you and tell them what is bothering you post-race. Great therapists will not only work on helping your muscles recover, they will show you additional stretches and techniques to expedite marathon recuperation. Leave for your marathon with a massage already booked in the days after your race.

Get in the bath

Epsom salt baths are a relatively new discovery for me. Now I look forward to them for their restorative benefits—soaking in the magnesium rich salts can reduce inflammation and helps restore electrolytes to your muscles. Pick up a bag of Epsom salts from your local drugstore, add a cup or two to your bath and relax.

Sleep

Not just because you are tired, although that may be the case. Quality sleep is when your body is in healing over-drive, repairing tissue, bones and muscles.