Post marathon recovery: top 5 tips from a physiotherapist

Busy preparing for the most awaited event, the Melbourne Marathon?  But wait, have you had a chance to think about the recovery plan post marathon? 

Many people who train for a marathon, whether they are experienced competitors or first time runners, overlook the importance of how to manage their body after the run.

After completing the 42km distance your muscles will be strained and you are emotionally and physically exhausted and this puts you at risk of post marathon fatigue and potential injury. Due to this we recommend having a post marathon recovery plan to help you get back to your day to day or to your next run as soon as possible.

Here are our top 5 tips for an effective recovery post Marathon

Energize and Rehydrate
Keep yourself hydrated with electrolyte, fluids. Grab your energy bars and eat high
energy foods such as bananas to get your sugar levels back up.

Later in the day ensure to fuel up with a high protein meal and get lots of rest.

Keep moving and stay warm
It is important to keep moving even if it is just a slow walk. If you can aim for 10-15mins of slow walking. Also get changed into other clothing as soon as you can to ensure you stay warm and dry.

Treat yourself to a sports massage
A sports massage can not only make you feel better but it can help relieve muscle tension, improve circulation and speed up recovery.

Stretch it out and get moving again
The next morning it is important to get out for a moderately brisk walk to get your body moving again. If you really cannot face getting out of the house try doing some yoga at home. Listen to your body and ensure to take note of any niggles or pains. If you have any blisters take care of these and try to wear different footwear, for example flip flops to avoid further aggravation.

Stretching is the key to recovery during the first few days post running but there is no need to stretch immediately after you run, just aim for later in the day. Ensure to stretch areas that are usually tight when you run e.g. hip flexors, glutes, calves, lower and mid back.

Utilise your foam roller when you can tolerate it as it maximises the body’s recovery and helps break up muscle adhesion and facilitates stretching. Start using the foam roller from the next day post run and for the next couple of weeks for 5 -10 mins.

Gradual return to running:
Consistency is important here. You don’t have to rush back to running or training hard, just train regularly and ease back into running at a pace your body can handle. You may not feel like running at all and cross-training might be the better option for you (e.g.swimming, biking, walking).

Week 1: rest, recover, walking
Week 2: slow paced jog for 15-20 minutes
Week 3: Start running with a faster pace
Week 4: Running to your normal capacity

Everyone’s recovery time frame is different, but ideally you should fully recover within 2 weeks post marathon. If you are still experiencing muscle aches, pains and niggles, ensure to consult your physiotherapist or health professional for advice.

Written by Nachu Nachiappan, Physiotherapist