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Runner Tips

Marathon recovery: It's just as important as training

Two runners sit on the ground and recover after a marathon race.
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When it comes to marathons and long-distance running in general, one thing that will quickly become evident is the importance of recovery, both during training and after racing.

Even when a really long run or the race itself goes well, chances are you're going to feel like you were hit by a bus afterward, which is completely normal. And while you're certainly deserving of an indulgent post-race meal followed by some R&R, there are other steps you can take to make sure you're approaching marathon recovery in a healthy way.

Refuel and replenish

If you're anything like me, you're probably not super hungry immediately after a long run or race. However, it's important to replenish lost nutrients ASAP after a hard effort, so do your best to get something in your system, such as a protein shake or even something as simple as chocolate milk, which has the perfect carbs-to-protein ratio for recovery. After you've freshened up and showered, you'll likely find your appetite has made a comeback, so you can head out for that post-run brunch or burger.

Stretch out (on the bed, too)

Later on, when you're back home, you can take other steps to help your body with the recovery process, whether it's stretching, foam rolling sore muscles, or taking a relaxing bubble bath with Epsom salts. Many people also underestimate the power and importance of getting enough sleep. One of my favorite recovery methods is taking an afternoon nap — if your lifestyle allows the time, go for it, especially if you had an early wake-up call before the race.

Two runners sit on the ground and recover after a marathon race.

Here's why proper marathon recovery tactics are just as important as executing good training.

Don't skip the recovery period

If your run was a particularly long or hard effort, be conscious about when your next hard session will be. You should never do speedwork the day after a long run; a few days later is more ideal. And once your race has come and gone? Give it a few weeks, or perhaps a month or two, before targeting another personal best. I've found I need two to three months post-marathon before my legs and body feel ready to race hard again.

The bottom line

It's natural to want to go hard all the time, but by prioritizing proper marathon recovery both during training and post-race, you can help ensure you'll be good and ready by the time the next one rolls around.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

Written By
Emilia Benton

Contributing Writer

Emilia Benton Running

I'm a Houston, Texas, native who's run 11 marathons and 30-something half marathons, with 3:30 and 1:39 personal bests. I'm also a freelance health and fitness journalist, a USATF Level 1-certified running coach, and a lover of country music, baking, and world travel.