How to Recover From a Half or Full Marathon
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
- 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.
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.
- 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?