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Marathon Recovery: What’s the best way for your body to recover?

With the Philadelphia marathon quickly approaching on Nov 18, we thought it would be helpful to talk about what your body needs AFTER the race. Marathon recovery techniques may vary from race to race, depending on what your body needs, but here are some general good tips to get you through those first few days after the big race.

1. Keep Moving

You’ve just crossed the finish line. You’re elated, but so fatigued. All you want to do is stop and sit down. Resist this temptation! For marathon recovery, try to walk for at least 10-15 minutes. This will help flush the lactic acid in your muscles and prevent muscle soreness. It also helps to lower your heart rate and improve overall circulation. You just ran 26.2 miles – you need to allow your body to “slow down”.

2. Eat a Snack

Eat a snack pretty quickly after the race to bring your blood sugar back up and support recovery of muscle. Try not to immediately eat a large meal – your body is generally not ready for this and can lead to upset stomach.

Make sure you are replenishing your fluids – on a cold day, bone broth can be an excellent recovery drink.

3. Elevate Your Legs

Often when you stop running, the blood begins to pool in your legs causing inflammation, swelling in the tissues, and achiness. You can help combat this by resting with your legs elevated above your heart, wearing compression stockings, and/or doing a cold water bath for 5-10 minutes.

4. Gently Stretch and Foam Roll

After you finish your walking cool down, you may want to do some gentle stretching, especially of the piriformis, adductors, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Don’t neglect the neck and upper body – people often hike their shoulders and use the accessory muscles around the neck to breathe better when fatigued. This will help with your marathon recovery.

5. Take a Break

To run the next day or not to run – this is often debated. I would encourage you to take a break and not run the next day. You need to allow your muscles and just as important nervous system to calm down and recover.

Your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight system) has just been amped up for several hours. The best way to get this to calm down is to perform diaphragmatic breathing and resting, letting the parasympathic nervous system have a turn. You can go for a walk, stretch, do some gentle Yoga, or get a massage. Most people agree that you may want to just cross train for the first week and not start running until at least 1 week after the race.

Physical Therapy Can Help With Marathon Recovery

Physical therapy can help support your marathon training and recovery. Click here to set up a complimentary phone consultation with one of our physical therapists to discuss how PT can help.

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