Post-Marathon Recovery for First-Timers

Before I begin, this post should really be titled, “Do As I Say, Not As I Do,” because I haven’t exactly followed my post-marathon recovery schedule to a T. But, that being said, I’ve made sure to follow the number one rule of not just recovery but training in general and that is listen to your body.

The two days following Big Sur left me in a state of pain I’ve never felt before. I live in a second floor apartment and when I got home from Big Sur I looked up at the stairs like they were Hurricane Point (round two). Little did I know, it was going down the stairs the next morning that would prove to be the hardest. (Pro tip: go down the stairs backwards, holding the railing. It’s easier on your quads and you don’t have to stare down the Everest below you.)

Finally, on Wednesday, three days after Big Sur, I was actually feeling pretty good. Not great, but a little farther away from death than the previous two days. I even thought about going out for a quick run but pulled back the reins and did some yoga instead.

On Thursday, I ran three glorious miles and actually felt surprisingly awesome. Then, on Friday, I ran again, this time a little bit longer. And then I accidently ran a progression run on Saturday finishing at 7:37 pace. Ooops. Again, do as I say not as I do.

Progression run

So Sunday I took a rest day and did some yoga and strength exercises instead. Now it’s Monday and I’m ready to get back into my 5-day-a-week running schedule. But it’s not going to look the same as my marathon training 5-day-a-week running schedule and it shouldn’t and yours shouldn’t either, first-timers.

As a first-time marathoner, navigating the post-marathon waters can be tough. You’re used to training really hard, running really long and forcing yourself to do challenging workouts. But you should view the few weeks following your marathon to be as important as any of the weeks during your pre-marathon training schedule. Messing up during these first few weeks following your 26.2 victory lap can lead to overtraining, burn out and worse, injury.

To make sure you recovery from your first marathon in a safe and healthy way, follow some of these tips:

  1. Listen to your body- This is especially important in the days immediately following the marathon. Don’t start running until your body tells you it is 100 percent ready. Even if you feel like enough time has passed and you can start up again, don’t do so if you have any lingering soreness or pain.
  2. Keep moving- That being said, it’s extremely important to keep moving in the days following a marathon. Go for a walk, do some yoga, spend a little time stretching. Whatever activity you choose try to keep those muscle moving to loosen up some of the lactic acid that build up during a marathon.
  3. Hydrate and fuel- The body burns an incredible amount of calories during a marathon so it’s extremely important to refuel in the one to two days following the marathon. Also, be sure to keep your body hydrated to avoid additional muscle soreness due to cramping.
  4. When you do run again, run easy- If you’re like me, you’re going to be super excited when you start to run again but slow down, Forest Gump. It might feel good to run your first run fast but you’ll pay for it the next day. Keep a very easy conversational pace on your first few runs out of the gate and don’t be afraid to walk a little.
  5. Get a massage- According to some of my seasoned marathoning friends, the best time to get a massage is 48 hours after the marathon. I didn’t get to test this theory but if you’re a fan of massages, I say go for it! However, be sure to go to a sports masseuse and let them know you just ran a marathon.
  6. Enjoy the downtime- After I crossed the finish line at Big Sur my first thought was, “I can’t wait to do that again!” Ok, I wasn’t ready to do it again right away but I am definitely planning my next 26.2 for the fall. However, I have at least two months of down time between training cycles so I want to enjoy it. My advice? Spend time with friends and family who you didn’t get to see when you were out for hours on the weekend doing your LSD runs.

I’m still navigating the post-marathon roads and am open to any and all advice! What do you do in the weeks following a marathon to recover?