The 4 Steps of Marathon Recovery

Did you train consistently for the past few months and complete your first race? Congratulations! Now it's time to celebrate—and to recover.

More: Your Post-Workout Recovery Ritual

As soon as you cross the finish line, you can start taking steps to reduce muscle soreness, rebuild your body's fuel supply, and get back to your normal routine sooner rather than later. Here's what to do—and when to do it—to bounce back from your big day.

How Much Recovery Time Do You Really Need?

When Leaving the Finishing Chute

Keep walking. Movement helps the heart pump fresh, oxygen-rich blood through your body.

More: How to Use Active Recovery to Improve Your Running

Avoid stopping or sitting for at least 30 minutes post race. Walk to the food tent to start the refueling process—have about 300 calories of simple carbs (some sports drink and a banana) within a half hour of finishing.

How to Prevent the Most Common Running Injuries

Back at Home or Your Hotel

Soak your legs in a cool bath for 15 minutes to reduce inflammation. Walk around for 10 to 30 minutes, 2 or 3 times during the afternoon. Between your walks, recline with your legs elevated.

More: Best Recovery Methods to Ease Muscle Soreness

Eat small meals every 2 to 3 hours—aim to get 25 percent of calories from protein, 20 percent from fat and the rest from complex carbs. And drink water or a sports drink—your urine should be pale yellow.

Foods That Help You Heal Faster

In the Days After

Continue to hydrate. Massage sore muscles with your hands or a foam roller for five minutes each day. If you're really suffering, ask your doctor whether anti-inflammatory medication might help.

More: 3 Post-Workout Meals That Lower Inflammation

Every other day, do this gentle workout to encourage blood flow to recovering muscles: Walk for 10 minutes, run a few seconds each minute for 10 to 20 minutes, and finish with 10 minutes of walking.

8 Hydration Myths, Busted

In the Weeks After

Gradually add running time to your every-other-day workouts until you're back to where you were before the race. On non-running days, walk or do gentle cross-training. If you're eager to participate in another race, wait at least three weeks before doing a 5K, and 4 to 6 weeks before doing anything longer.

More: 10 Post-Race Essentials

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