Your Post Marathon Recovery

With the wrap up of Bridge to Brisbane on the weekend, it’s important to have a recovery plan whether it be your first marathon or your 10th. A good recovery plan allows you to gain and benefit from all your hard work and effort put into the lead up to the marathon. Neglecting your recovery can increase the risk of injury and increase the total time it takes to recover from your marathon as well as limit your long term goals.

So what happens when you cross that finish line? What should you do next? Here are some tips to help that recovery process:

1. Get Warm

When you cross that finish line, keep warm. Try and get changed into dry clothes as soon as possible as you’ll cool down pretty quickly. Changing clothes won’t help recovery but it’ll certainly make you feel better.

2. Nutrition & Hydration

After any big event, one of the most important things to do is Rehydrate and that means drinking plenty of water. When you run, and especially if you run well, your body will produce sweat and this is a good thing. Sweats primary function is to keep your core body temperature at a healthy range and prevents over heating. When you sweat, your body loses fluid and essential electrolytes that will need to be replaced if your body is to recover efficiently.

How much water should you drink? The exact amount will vary from person to person and will depend on the type of training as well as duration, sweat rate, clothing worn, temperature and fitness. As a rule of thumb, you should be keeping your body well hydrated through out the day, which on average is 2 – 4 Litres per day.

It’s important to replace all the nutrients your body has lost during exercise, everything the body needs to rebuild and maintain muscles, nerves and energy. Straight after your rice, most runners have something quick to eat like banana’s, energy bars, sports drinks and fruit.

During this recovery window, it’s important to provide your body with the right foods and sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Carbohydrates help restore glycogen (energy) to your muscles while proteins help rebuild muscle. Ideally, this meal should be consumed within 30 – 60 minutes of your run.

The speed of your recovery depends on the timing and quality of your post run nutrition. If you skip your post run meal, the recovery rate from your run will decrease as well as not providing your body with the resources it needs to refuel and repair.

3. Contrast Hydrotherapy (Hot & Cold)

Contrast hydrotherapy, although not a lot of research has been done into this specific recovery tool, many athlete’s still use this as an effective recovery method.

Contrast hydrotherapy as appose to ice baths alternate between warm water and cool water gradually increased to hot and cold.

The rationales behind hot and cold therapy are very similar. Normal icing or heating methods are mild forms of contrasting because you are alternating between heating and cooling and then removing it to allow the tissues to warm up or cool down. Contrasting emphasises this process between heating and cooling of tissues. The most common practice for contrasting is in the shower.

Contrasting should follow this methodology;

  • Comfortably hot > approx. 2 minutes
  • Cooling (not cold) > approx. 1 minute
  • Heating (hotter) > approx. 2 minutes
  • Cooling (colder) > approx. 1 minute
  • Heating (hot) > approx. 2 minutes
  • Cooling (Cold) > approx. 1 minutes



Stay Warm: You want to be more thorough with heat, at least a minute but no longer than 5. All depends on how efficient your heating method is.

Finish with Cold: All contrasting sessions should finish with cold, particularly if you suspect any inflammatory processes.

Stretch when Hot: if you choose to stretch during contrasting, its always best to stretch while your muscles are warm.

Increase Intensity as you go: It’s ideal to increase the heat or cold as you go to increase the contrasting.

Recovery Plan

Days 1 – 4

Appropriate Rest & Recovery including nutrition. Light stretching and a massage would also be beneficial. Avoid Deep Tissue treatments so close post event. Contrast therapy.

Days 4 – 7

Running: One day, Short distance approx. up to 5km Very Easy

Additional Training: 1 or 2 days cross training primarily working on promoting blood flow to the legs and not building on fitness.

Continue to eat healthy diet, enough proteins, fats and carbs

Contrast Therapy/Epsom salt bath.

Day 7 – 14

Running: 3 or 4 days approx. up to 10km

Additional training: up to 3 days cross training, with easy to medium sessions.

A massage in this time frame will help with recovery and get you back into a full training load as well as to clear up any concerns you may have had during your marathon

Day 14 – 21

Running: begin to slowly return back to a full training routine

Additional Training: increased intensity in sessions for cross training, working on ancillary muscles