Congratulations - you’ve finished your 26.2 mile journey. Now what? What you do in the minutes, hours and days after the race is vital to how quickly you recover. Here are a few tips for what to do after you grab your space blanket and your well-deserved finisher’s medal.
- Move. Cooling down prevents blood from pooling in your legs and helps clear lactic acid.
- Drink. Because you may have diluted your body’s sodium concentration, drinking sports drinks, or having a salty food like pretzels with your water will help.
- Eat. You should aim for about 0.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight, along with a modest amount of protein. No need to eat right after the race if you can’t tolerate it, but if you fuel up within 1.5-2 hours your body will replenish your depleted glycogen supply more efficiently.
- Ice. If your muscles hurt, ice will probably help. Though heat may feel more soothing, it can actually aggravate the situation. Also try elevating your feet, and be sure to have a pair of loose, comfortable shoes on hand after the race.
- Stretch. Stretching can help, but you have to be especially careful. Remember that your muscles are already spent, so you need to stretch very gently.
The next week
- Rest. Don’t worry – your fitness won’t disappear if you take it easy. Don’t try running yet, but walking for 15-20 minutes, or a quick swim or bike ride to get the blood flowing can help.
- Massage. While a massage immediately after the race can aggravate your muscles, it’s great in the days after.
- Keep eating. Be sure to fuel your body with a diet that’s rich in complex carbohydrates as well as protein. Eat as many calories as you like, but try to make sure you’re eating good foods.
- Relax. Don’t feel any pressure to rush back. Go for an easy jog 5-7 days after the race if you like, but don’t worry if you don’t feel great. Full recovery will probably take 4-6 weeks.