S&R 3

Top tips for a successful post-marathon recovery

Everyone knows that preparing for a marathon takes months of sweat, tears and intensive training. But how often do you hear people talk about post-marathon recovery?

Well, we should be talking about it. Because the steps you take after you cross the finish line are almost as important as the strides that got you there.

Call it 'un-training', if you like. Here's how to prepare your mind and body for another 26 miles.

Of course, if you sustain any injuries during your run or post-marathon please seek professional medical advice. Everyone is different, but here are our top tips on life after the marathon... 

The first 15 minutes

Congratulations: you've just conquered a marathon. Your medal is secured. All you want to do is bask in your accomplishment and tumble into a happy heap.

But you can't rest just yet. Post-marathon recovery starts now.

Try to keep moving. Slip into some comfortable flip-flops and just move. This is really important: it keeps blood flowing to your muscles and helps kickstart the healing process.

Avoid painkillers if you can. Yes, your legs feel like they're made of agony. But marathons come with a very real risk of injury – and systemic painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen could mask the signs of something serious. Instead, try a topical cooling spray for a little temporary relief.

Now go home, take a nap (check out your influx of Kudos on Strava) and tell all your pals what an absolute legend you are. You've earned it.


The first few days

Over the coming days, those pin-sharp pains will settle into dull aches that feel like the sensory equivalent of a ship's foghorn. You're experiencing DOMS: delayed onset muscle soreness.

Long story short, your muscles have been through the wringer – and they've developed countless tiny tears that will need time to heal.

So, you've got one job: take it easy. Rest, recuperate and let your natural healing processes work their magic.

This is a very important stage of your post-marathon recovery. Don't be tempted to do too much – you should definitely avoid intensive exercise for now.

To help your muscles recover, try wearing compression socks. These help promote blood flow and healing.

You could also treat yourself to a sports massage – but give yourself three or four days of rest first. If you head straight for the massage table, you could end up making your symptoms worse.


The next few weeks

After two or three weeks, you should start feeling somewhat normal again. But stay cautious: even though you might feel ready for the track, your muscles are still working hard to heal.

At week two, you might want to try a gentle jog. You're not setting out to beat your personal best – rather, you want to see how far you can push your legs. If they're not ready, they'll tell you.

And don't forget to look after your mental wellbeing too, the post-marathon blues are all too real. After all, you've dedicated so much of your time to this one event that the next few days and weeks can leave you feeling a little... well, lost. Remember to incorporate healthy food and mindfulness into your post-marathon recovery and you'll feel all the better for it.


How long until I can train again?

It depends.

Some experts suggest 26 days of rest: one for every mile. Others recommend one day for every kilometre (42 days).

But post-marathon recovery is different for every runner. You might need a little longer to feel fighting fit. Or you may be able to manage some light exercise (think swimming or yoga) fairly early on.

You can still stretch your legs, no matter your fitness level. 'Rest' doesn't have to mean lying in bed with an iPad and a tub of fro-yo. It's a good idea to keep moving – gently – even if you're not ready for your usual HIIT routine.

Just remember to take things slowly. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself and kick your post-marathon recovery plan back to square one. Listen to your mind and body – and take a few days off if you feel you need it.


What should I eat during my post-marathon recovery period?

Chances are, you'll finish the race and start dreaming of just about anything to sustain your hunger! 

This is normal. After months of difficult training and a strict diet, your body wants to let loose and eat the biggest, greasiest thing it can find.

Try not to give in to temptation. Junk food might be momentarily satisfying – but it's the polar opposite of what you need right now.

Salty, sweet and low-nutrient foods are out. Instead, your post-race diet should include plenty of protein – to promote muscle healing – and electrolytes like potassium and sodium, which help keep you hydrated. And remember, when it comes to eating protein, you don't have to reach for meat. 

We're talking things like protein shakes, chickpeas, lentils, beans and even potatoes, as well as potassium-rich fruits such as bananas and tomatoes. Try to eat a meal like this within 30 minutes of finishing – and then regularly throughout your first week of post-marathon recovery.

And don't neglect hydration. Drink plenty of water – especially in the first few hours after the race.


The importance of mental well-being in post-marathon recovery


For the last few months, your whole life has been dominated by the race. You've trained for it. You've changed your diet for it. You've spent nearly every waking hour thinking about it.

Then all of a sudden, it's over. Your familiar routine is gone and you've nothing to aim for. You feel lost, listless and more than a little achy.

Yes, the post-marathon blues are very real. But they can be avoided – or at least minimised – by making sure you look after your mind and body during your recovery.

This means taking some time to reflect on your victory – or your loss, if you didn't quite clinch it. It means being kind to yourself and recognising the hard work you've put in. And it means eating well, sleeping well and doing all the things your body needs to settle back into a normal routine.

It's not easy – but we're here to help.


Get the R&R you need at The Glass House

The Glass House is the perfect place to kickstart your post-marathon recovery plan.

We take a holistic approach to health and well-being, so you'll find everything you need here to rest your mind and reinvigorate your body.

When you visit our Essex wellness retreat, you'll eat nutritious vegan food, get great sleep and enjoy plenty of free time for rest and relaxation. You can, if you like, indulge in a little gentle exercise too – or just pound away those aches and pains with a massage session in our spa.

Sounds good? You can start by exploring our bespoke wellness packages. You don't half deserve it.


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