Congratulations! You did it. 99.5% of the American population will never know what that feels like. You are now, and forever, a member of the marathon tribe.

Your body is weak and your muscles are damaged. Pushing yourself too hard, too soon will result in injury. Recovering from your first marathon requires patience and attention.

1. Rest

You already showed the world what you can do. It’s OK to dial things back and put your feet up for a little while. The first two days after the race you should not even think about putting your running shoes on. Maybe a little walk around the block or through the neighborhood to get the blood flowing, but nothing more. Try to get in bed early and let your body recover and rebuild.

2. Nutrition

You probably burned in excess of 3500 calories on race day and lost a few pounds between the start and the finish. Your body consumed all of your available fuel and then tapped into your reserves. Now is the time to restock the shelves with nutritious meals and plenty of water. You will feel better and have more energy if you keep the tank full with healthy snacks throughout the day. You may want to consider an immunity booster or extra vitamin C to keep your body protected during this time.

3. TLC

Icing sore muscles and joints, elevating your feet, and massaging your muscles will all help speed recovery and make you feel less like a stiff-legged zombie. Be careful not to do any kind of deep massage for at least several days after your marathon. Your muscles are still very tender and vulnerable. Even if you feel better, you are still a mess at the microscopic level.

4. Walking

Walking can be very therapeutic. It allows you to get outside and feel like your back in the routine again- albeit much slower. Cross-training activities like cycling and swimming are also a good forms of exercise to help keep your cardio levels high while reducing the stress on your overused muscles and joints. Whatever you choose, keep it easy and stay in the green zone for effort.

5. Backwards Taper

As you make your way back to regular training, think of it as a reverse taper. You are going to slowly build your mileage up in a way that will keep you healthy, reduce injury, and give you a solid foundation to build upon for the future.

Below is an example of a 3-week recovery plan after the marathon. Every runner will recover at their own rate, so your plan will need to be very flexible based on what your body is telling you. Don’t push it, injuries will follow unless you’re ready.

  • Day 1 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
  • Day 2 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
  • Day 3 – 2 Miles at a very easy pace
  • Day 4 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
  • Day 5 – 3 Miles at a very easy pace
  • Day 6 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
  • Day 7 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
  • Day 8 – 3 Miles at a very easy pace
  • Day 9 – 3 Miles at a very easy pace
  • Day 10 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
  • Day 11 – 5 Miles at a very easy pace
  • Day 12 – 5 Miles at a very easy pace
  • Day 13 – Rest
  • Day 14 – 6 Miles at a very easy pace
  • Day 15 – Rest
  • Day 16 – 6 Miles regular run
  • Day 17 – 3 Miles easy
  • Day 18 – 6 Miles regular run
  • Day 19 – 4 Miles easy
  • Day 20 – Rest
  • Day 21 – 10 Miles easy

During the recovery phase it’s normal to feel a bit depressed. After 16 weeks of intense training and the thrill of your first marathon finish, your normal routine probably feels a little flat. This is a good time to count your blessings and recharge both mentally and physically before you start your next training phase.

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Even the pros make it a habit to enjoy an extended period of total rest after the racing season is over. The wear and tear of training and racing effects both body and mind. Even the immune system and the hormonal system become compromised after months of hard training.

A healthy diet and plenty of sleep is crucial during this time. Your tired body is especially vulnerable to illness and respiratory infections after running a marathon. While you’re sleeping, you can dream about running your next marathon.

 

Next Steps:

  1. EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RUNNING YOUR FIRST MARATHON
  2. TRAINING FOR YOUR FIRST MARATHON
  3. NUTRITION WHILE TRAINING FOR YOUR FIRST MARATHON
  4. RUNNING SHOES AND GEAR FOR YOUR FIRST MARATHON
  5. MENTAL TRAINING FOR YOUR FIRST MARATHON
  6. RACE DAY TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST MARATHON
  7. RECOVERING FROM YOUR FIRST MARATHON

Thoughts?