Congratulations, you’ve just finished a marathon! While you may already be thinking of your next race, taking the time for thoughtful and comprehensive recovery is what you need once you have crossed the finish line. Most marathon runners work from a training plan that emphasizes conditioning for distance over time along with rest, hydration, and supportive nutrition. However, the tools for race recovery are perhaps not as well known.

Whether this is your first or twenty-first marathon, what steps can you take for optimal mental and physical recovery, so you are ready to run again? Bear in mind that we are all different and the program outlined below is only a suggested approach. Your body will tell you if it is the right one for you.

Post Marathon Weeks 1-2:

  • Focus on nutrition and hydration for several days after your race, eating a mix of carbohydrates and proteins along with steady, consistent water consumption. This strategy supports muscle repair.
  • Take a break from running and deep-tissue massage. Although you may want to run again right away, especially if you had a personal best in your last race, wait at least 5-7 days before you resume running. Your tissues and bones (especially your joints) need time to repair, and rest is your friend here. Gentle massage, or better yet stretching, will help your muscles feel better without incurring further damage.
  • Consider other forms of exercise so you keep moving while you recover. Swimming, yoga or even short sessions on an elliptical machine are all great ideas that save your legs and are kind to your joints.
  • Get some deep sleep to support muscle repair. This is a necessity, especially if you have been forgoing sleep as part of your marathon training.

Post Marathon Weeks 2-3:

  • Make your first post-marathon runs short and easy. If you feel good, great! Continue adding intensity to your training. If you are challenged to recover from these first few workouts, slow down your return to running until your body tells you it is ready to resume.
  • Take the same gradual approach to your strength training. Focus your strength training on light weights and see how you progress.
  • Keep your focus on deep sleep.
  • Use the same discipline you showed in your marathon training to support your marathon recovery. Training for a marathon is all-consuming, and you may experience some post-race let down or even a sense of having too much time on your hands. This recovery period is a great time to determine your next step whether that means planning for your next marathon or concluding your racing career. Be sure to add in some fun activities you might have forgone while training to help you find something else to look forward to.