A marathon is a huge fitness challenge. Running over 26 miles takes a real toll on the body. After finishing, it's important to make sure you're taking care of yourself. Recovering well is a key step to avoid injury and get back into your fitness routine as soon as possible. Though there's some debate about recovery strategies, the following tips are generally agreed upon.
Refuel: The starting point for marathon recovery is refueling
Once you've crossed the finish line, it's important to rehydrate and consume some carbs. Often there are bagels and bananas available for runners just past the finish line. Refueling immediately after strenuous exercise is good for you. Refilling the tank will help you recover better in the long run.
Muscle Recovery: Get a massage if one is offered at the finish line
When you get home, or back to your hotel, consider taking a shower. In the shower, switch back and forth between hot and cold water. Alternating like this will encourage blood flow to your leg muscles. Some runners prefer a soak in the tub with Epsom salts, which is also fine. The magnesium in this product can aid in muscle recovery. Lukewarm water is best for soaks. Finally, spend some time in legs up the wall pose. This technique from yoga is every runner's best friend. It's just what it sounds like: you lie on your back and put your legs up against the wall. You'll feel your calf muscles start to un-knot themselves.
Rest: Most experts agree that the day after the marathon should be for rest
There is some evidence to show that low impact exercise like swimming can be beneficial. These types of post-marathon exercises encourage blood flow to your muscles without straining your joints. Be judicious in the exercise you choose to do. A brisk walk may be all you need. Yoga can help relieve soreness. Jogging or running the day after a big race is generally not recommended.
Cross Train: As you continue your recovery, don't focus just on running
Strengthening your muscles with weights or increasing flexibility with yoga can help you improve your running in the long term. Post-marathon exercises that focus on the whole body can help you stay balanced and avoid injuries going forward. For example, running works anterior muscles like the quads a lot. You can balance that activity by incorporating squats, power cleans and other resistance exercises into your routine.