Recovery is key for the Marathon

Crippled by a marathon?? Here are some tips to bounce back better after your next big race.

Experienced runners & great coaches know marathons are all about preparation & recovery. Just arriving at the start line injury free & in great shape requires solid planning, training and most importantly recovery. It is no surprise that these are the crucial elements to help you enjoy the race more, recovery quicker and move on to your next big challenge.
Many coaches suggest 1 day rest from running for every mile ‘raced’. Others suggest at least 2 weeks off running and a gradual return to steady paced running for the next 2 weeks before returning to more demanding sessions of speed, long endurance or any racing.

Follow these tips to get you back on your feet quicker;

Prepare correctly

  • Training, the obvious key that we all devote plenty of time to will help ensure we physically & mentally prepared for the marathon challenge. Better training will reduce risks of cramps, undue fatigue & long painful recoveryFun run shoes
  • Simulate some race conditions in training ie use the same pre run brekky, gels & sports drinks and try to simulate the race conditions & terrain as much as possible
  • Pre race lube. If you’ve ever had blisters, chaffing, rashes or bleeding nipples you know what I mean! You’ll soon know on your long runs what rubs & where
  • Choosing the ‘best’ running outfit for you follows on from the lube point above. Train in what you intend to race in so you know it works for you. And choose weather appropriate gear for your race


Immediately post race

  • Ice/water. Ice baths and cold water recovery sessions help to reduce micro swelling in the legs by with an anti inflammatory effect from the cool temperatures limiting blood flow & increased hydrostatic pressure also helps reduce pooling of fluid in your legs
  • Compression garments also have a positive effect limiting swelling and helping promote circulation post race. 3+hrs of compression is required for the best results.
  • Rehydrate! Sports drinks, water and water rich food such as fruits and salads will help the body replace lost fluids vital for cell recovery.
  • Post race Nutrition should also include high protein food such as a low fat milk drink, legumes, chicken, beef or other high protein foods to give your body the building blocks for tissue repair & recovery.
  • Recovery walk stretch after the race. While after completing 42km you probably don’t feel like another unnecessary step, keep walking to limit the legs stiffening up. Aim to go for a gentle 5min walk & light stretch every hour or you’ll soon stiffen to the shape of your lounge!

In the following 2 weeks post race

  • Sleep! The body needs more time to repair from the marathon so allow at least 30mins extra sleep per night.
  • Water recovery session such as gentle walking, leg swings & swimming will feel good on sore legs with a gentle massage effect from the water, and promote
  • Massage will help ease tight & tired muscles and flush out recovery by-products  building up in the lymphatic system. And it feels great!
  • Cross training. If you can’t enjoy total rest post marathon use non weight bearing exercise such as cycling or rowing for your exercise to promote blood flow to working uscles bringing much needed nutrients.

And finally the mental recovery element is also important. For many this can be tough as a major goal & driving force is now over. Stop & celebrate your achievement! Enjoy your break from running & hard training, and use the time to think about other recreation or spend time with family & friends. I know… many people tend to think of the next big challenge or event and start planning all aspects straight away, but don’t rush into it. You’ll soon know (when you’ve got the twitch) when you’re ready to plan your next event.

Savour all your hard work for a week or 2 and let the mind recover as well as the body. If you have a disappointing race, learn from it. You’re certainly not the first! The marathon claims many victims, so take time to reflect, not agonise over the race. Next time around you know exactly how to correct anything that didn’t quite go to plan last race. ice bath

Chatting at the finish line of the Gold Coast Marathon with Tristan Miller, the amazing athlete who ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks across all 7 continents during 2010. Tristan certainly respects his body & knows how to optimise recovery. Tristan’s best recovery tip post race….

Ice baths.
5-10mins in the ice bath, followed by 5mins out, and repeat it 3-5 times.
If ice isn’t available cool water will also be good (& a little more comfortable), but it won’t have as strong an anti inflammatory response as the ice.

My own story….

Nearly 2 weeks since the Gold Coast marathon & the legs are feeling much better. I pay close attention to my post race nutrition with high protein foods and rehydration. I also spent plenty of time in my 2XU full leg recovery tights (especially when sleeping). 

I also completed 3 water sessions in the cold ocean pool near my house. Initially standing and gentle walking and in week 2 I was doing light water running, leg swings & stretching. Also I definitely slept more in the first week following the marathon and it was really enjoyable to sleep in on a few training days knowing I’d not only deserved it but it was a part of my recovery plan. In fact the muscles weren’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. But my weakness is my feet. I suffered badly from blisters after this race but like all the pain of the race, soon after it’s long forgotten and we’re looking at the next challenge, that little bit wiser & hopefully little bit more eager to run a big event again.


What is your recovery secret??

Please post your tips below.


For more on the inspirational exploits of Tristan Miller head to


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