How to Recover From a Half or Full Marathon

nike women's half marathon dc | almost getting it together

I’ve finally done it. Five plus years of racing half-marathons (okay, two and a half years racing half marathons and the previous three were spent intermittently running halves and more than halfway hating them) and I ran a race, PR-ed, and was basically not sore (just a little stiff) the next day.

SeaWheeze recovery may have been a fluke but nevertheless, after a lot of experimenting, research and practice, I think I have how to recover from a half or full marathon down to a science. Remember though, I’m not a fitness professional so these are the tips that work for me but everybody (and every body!) is different so you may have a couple of trial-and-error periods before you find what works best for you.

How to Recover From a Half or Full Marathon

Kaiser Permanente 2015 San Francisco Half-Marathon| almost getting it together

This is what great post race recovery looks like.

  • Foam Roll and Stretch Immediately After
    I know, you just finished a race (yay!) and want to celebrate/shower/eat everything but please trust me – just spend ten minutes foam rolling and stretching. You’ll thank me the next morning when you can get out of bed. It really helps while your muscles are still warm.
  • Get Protein As Soon As Possible After Finishing
    I carry a Vega blender bottle and Vega Recovery Performance Protein with me in my checked gear bag. If I can get my hands on coconut water or unsweetened almond milk, or think to stick a mini bottle in my bag, I use that – if not, water works, it just isn’t quite as tasty. You make lots of little tears in your muscles running hard and this helps repair them.If you don’t want to drink protein, eat something really protein heavy like eggs on avocado toast, chicken, or just really anything with a lot of protein but the protein shake is just the easiest and best solution I’ve personally found.

    how-to-recover-from-a-long-run-almost-getting-it-together

    My favorite protein shake ingredients.

  • Hydrate
    Just drink water and when you think you’ve drank enough, drink more. This goes without saying.
  • Eat Wholesome, Real Foods
    Okay, you ran 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles and you feel like you want and deserve to eat anything you want – but please don’t. Eat lots of veggies, lean proteins and whole grains. Maybe have dessert, a beer or an extra glass of wine that day. Definitely eat a little extra – but don’t eat processed foods, burgers, pizza, ice cream and everything ever terrible because you burned 1000-2700 calories, not 7000, and your body wants wholesome things to recover – Doritos don’t help rebuild muscle and replenish carb stores.
  • Schedule a Massage
    After my first ever half-marathon, I could barely walk the next day. Then I got a massage and somehow, I could walk a little better once I left. Now, after most races I get a massage. Some races have complimentary massages afterwards (SeaWheeze, Nike Women’s) but do yourself a favor and just schedule a real 60 minute massage.I’ve gotten Swedish, hot stone, deep tissue and sports after races and I’m pretty sure deep tissue does the best for me. If you’re in a major metro area, there are now even apps where a massage therapist will come to your house or apartment with a massage table so you don’t even have to hobble down stairs to get worked out. I’ve used both Zeel (you can save $25 on your massage with code AGIT) and Soothe and both were awesome. You can pick your therapist gender if that matters to you, the type of massage you want and then they come over, have a speaker with spa music, set up the table and work out all the lactic acid.
  • Wear Compression Socks
    It might be the placebo effect, but every time I remember to wear my compression socks after I get out of the shower, I’m less sore the next day. They are really worth the $40 or whatever investment.
  • Go to Yoga
    Yes, in addition to the massage, go to yoga. The massage works all the junk out of your muscles and yoga stretches you back out. There is nothing like half-pigeon the day of or day after a race.
seawheeze 2015 | almost getting it together

Race day yoga at SeaWheeze.

  • Have an Easy Active Recovery Day
    This is my new thing – I don’t take a full recovery day the day after a race. I’ll go to SoulCycle, go on a hike or go on a short, easy run (leave that watch at home!). Every second typically hurts but it gets your muscles loose and moving and really helps with recovery.
  • Get Some Sleep
    Go to bed early the night of your race. If you’re anything like me, you’re typically falling asleep on the couch at 8:30 p.m. Alternatively, I’ve also drank an entire bottle of wine and been up until 1 a.m. and really felt like shit the next day because race hangover + improper recovery + real hangover = the worst.

Chat with me:
What are your half or full marathon recovery tips? What do you do in the hours and days after a race? What are you training for right now?

27 comments on “How to Recover From a Half or Full Marathon

Avatar image
Rachel@ Athletic Avocado on August 26, 2015 7:25 am

I plan to run a marathon some day, so I am bookmarking this!
Rachel@ Athletic Avocado recently posted…Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Banana Ice CreamMy Profile

Avatar image
Cassie on August 31, 2015 1:59 am

Hope it helps :)

Avatar image
Susie @ SuzLyfe on August 26, 2015 9:44 am

All great tips! I’m all about my optimal recovery (like I talked about in my post) through nutrition and active and passive recovery. You can’t just sit on your biscuit, but you can’t go crazy, either. Recovery is about listening but also telling your body how to recover. But something for all to remember is that RACE recovery often takes a slightly different form than long run recovery because of the changes in terrain and intensity.
Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Marathon Training Nutrition: Long Run DayMy Profile

Avatar image
Cassie on August 31, 2015 1:58 am

YES. They are slightly different! I’m always way more sore after a race than even a 20-miler!

Avatar image
Heather @Fit n Cookies on August 26, 2015 10:20 am

Such great tips! I’m all about the compression socks after and stretching it out. I typically give in to whatever I’m craving, mostly because I’m never really hungry so anything that sounds good I figure I need to eat. I also take a break from running for a few days after, if you truly raced it. If you just ran it at a normal pace you run at, that might not be necessary. But, when you increase your speed and really go all out, your body needs time to recover.
Heather @Fit n Cookies recently posted…My Changing PassionMy Profile

Avatar image
Cassie on August 31, 2015 1:58 am

I’ve found I’m less hungry after long runs/races than I used to be so I typically do the same!!

Avatar image
Christina on August 26, 2015 12:28 pm

This is great advice! I’m training for my first ever half marathon and need all the suggestions I can get. I’ll save this post for my recovery :)

Avatar image
Cassie on August 31, 2015 1:58 am

Yay, let me know how it goes!

Avatar image
Trevor E on August 26, 2015 1:24 pm

Just love ya!
Trevor E recently posted…The Internet and IntroversionMy Profile

Avatar image
Cassie on August 31, 2015 1:57 am

xoxoxo!!! *insert hearts for eyes emoji*

Avatar image
Alyssa @ RenaissanceRunnerGirl on August 26, 2015 1:45 pm

I am definitely about the healthy refueling and the stretching. I hadn’t discovered foam rolling after my last half, but it is the plan for future ones. I tend to have an active day even after the race as well as the next day, keeping on moving helps me a lot!
Alyssa @ RenaissanceRunnerGirl recently posted…Eating Gluten Free in EnglandMy Profile

Avatar image
Cassie on August 31, 2015 1:57 am

It took me a while to get on the foam rolling train but now I’m a convert.

Avatar image
Debbie on August 26, 2015 4:57 pm

These days I take a full day (or two) recovery, but back when I was really racing marathons (and younger!) I loved to spin my legs out the day after a race. Great tips!
Debbie recently posted…The Best Ways to Invest in Your BlogMy Profile

Avatar image
Cassie on August 28, 2015 10:41 am

Good to know I’m not crazy with spinning :)

Avatar image
Kristen on August 26, 2015 10:11 pm

Great tips! I just had my first “I’m not going to die” post-half marathon recovery and it was awesome! I do a bunch of these, including epsom salt baths later in the day. The foam rolling and yoga are so helpful!
Kristen recently posted…What I’ve Learned From My Running ShoesMy Profile

Avatar image
Cassie on August 28, 2015 10:39 am

Epsom salt really helps, too. I do ice baths after REALLY long runs and my marathon, too!

Avatar image
Sam on August 26, 2015 10:47 pm

I did the Grouse Grind a few hours after running the SeaWheeze. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not the right way to recover!

I like the tip about packing protein powder in a blender bottle. I’m going to try that after my Disneyland half marathon next weekend.

Avatar image
Cassie on August 28, 2015 10:39 am

I definitely want to do it next year… maybe not a couple hours after, though!

Let me know if the protein powder helps! :)

Avatar image
Sam on September 8, 2015 2:50 am

I want to say the protein helped but it’s inconclusive because I spent the day at the theme parks after the Disneyland half marathon yesterday (doesn’t everybody do that??). I went back to my hotel room to shower and change, but quite a few runners headed straight for the parks still wearing their bibs. By the end of the day, I had logged over 55,000 steps, covered more than a full marathon distance and been awake for 20 hours with a lot of that time on my feet.

Once again, I’m totally the wrong example of how to recover after a race. Maybe there’s a collaboration here with you sharing tips on how to recover and I’ll dish experienced advice on what not to do. :-)

Avatar image
Cassie on September 13, 2015 8:58 pm

Oh no, I’m sorry race recovery wasn’t as planned! I’m going to say hopefully it helped… at least it gave you energy for the parks, right?

Avatar image
Shashi at RunninSrilankan on August 27, 2015 1:20 pm

Wait “Doritos don’t help rebuild muscle and replenish carb stores”??? Whaaat???
Just kidding!
Seriously, these are all awesome pointers, Cassie! I have to get some compression socks as you are like the 20th person who has mentioned they help a ton!

Avatar image
Cassie on August 28, 2015 10:36 am

Yes, plus when you’re traveling they’re great for the plane if you swell like me!

Avatar image
Lauren @ ihadabiglunch on August 27, 2015 3:08 pm

This is the part I’m the worst at haha. Foam rolling and stretching…you’d think it’d be the easiest part but whenever I’m done running I just want to be done! I really do have to work on that for my marathon training.
Lauren @ ihadabiglunch recently posted…Thinking Out Loud: there are still good people in the worldMy Profile

Avatar image
Cassie on August 28, 2015 10:36 am

I’m trying to take just a couple minutes a day to foam roll and stretch… hopefully it pays off!

Avatar image
Maria @ runningcupcake on August 31, 2015 7:39 am

Some great tips here, thanks. I find that walking really helps, and also eating and drinking something as soon as I can after finishing, even if I don’t feel like it. I like the idea of the portable protein shake thing too.
Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Do you have any nectarines?My Profile

Avatar image
Martha on September 1, 2015 10:53 pm

Thanks for this consolidated list of tips! I’m looking forward to doing the Nike SF run in October and recently picked up my first pair of compression socks…can’t wait to see how that helps with recovery. Are you doing this race too? I’m doing lots of hill training here in the Midwest (as much as I can). My question: does Nike have any foam rollers at the end? I don’t think I am packing one…..

Avatar image
Cassie on September 2, 2015 3:58 am

Hi Martha, I am doing this race! Nike does have foam rollers at the end so no need to pack one if you don’t want to! :)

Comments are closed.