You've trained for months and finally marathon day has arrived. You run the race and hopefully have a blast. Finishing is not the end of your training, though. Now you have to take care of yourself. Use the following five tips to help ensure you recover safely and completely.
The first thing you can do to help your recovery is to eat foods that have a good mix of protein, carbs and fat. Chocolate milk is a great recovery food, as is peanut butter and many energy bars. Most marathon organizers will hand out food at the finish line, and you should take it. The best time to eat is within 45 minutes after you finish, as your body will absorb the nutrients better and use them to get your body back on track. Along with eating, you should also drink plenty of fluids to replace what you lost while running.
Soon after finishing, you should also stretch your muscles. Remember: they just went through quite a workout and need you to take of them. You probably have a regular stretching routine, so use that. Pay special attention to any areas that were hurting while you ran. Stretch gingerly and don't push any stretches if you have pain that's beyond the general soreness that you will have all over. If any real pain persists for longer than a day or two, see a specialist who can help you distinguish between a true injury and discomfort that will fade with a little rest.
The day of the marathon after the race, it's a good idea to do self-massage with either a foam roller or a massage stick. You can continue with your self-massage as long as any muscle soreness continues. You may also want to treat yourself to a professional sports massage the next day or a few days later. A trained masseuse can really work out any lingering tightness in your muscles.
If you can, immerse yourself in an ice bath within a few hours after you finish your marathon. This step is not always possible, as you may be attending a celebration party—especially if you ran for a charity or as part of a team or running club. Whether or not you can ice, take an anti-inflammatory, such as Advil, to reduce muscle inflammation caused by running a marathon.
Most experts suggest you rest for at least one week after completing a marathon. Not running allows your muscles to heal fully and get stronger. Running too soon can cause muscle fatigue, strains and even injury. It is best to let your body recover completely. You will have plenty of time to run again soon.