Marathon Training Recovery Guide: How To Recover Rapidly

It’s easy to get worn out when in marathon preparation mode; the following marathon training recovery guide gives our recommendations for how to recuperate as quickly as possible after a workout!

Training for a marathon is gruelling work.

You run mile after mile on a tired body, often at the end of a long work day.

Almost every week you have to increase your mileage in order to get the necessary training in. 

In amongst the interval work, training runs, and cross training all you want to do is take a break from your marathon training plan

But then the weekend creeps up and a nice, long 15 miler is waiting for you!

You can easily become injured . . . fatigued . . . sleep-deprived . . . de-motivated, or all of the above.

Marathon training definitely requires a strong measure of willpower and determination.

But you can make things easier on yourself by focussing on recovery.

After each-and-every training session, there are steps you can take which will accelerate your muscle repairre-stock your glycogen tanks, and set you up right for the next run

Let’s look at the key principles of marathon training recovery

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1. Eat Right For Marathon Training Recovery

As soon as you finish your training session, your body is primed to eat.

Aim to have a medium-sized meal within 30 minutes of completing each run as part of your marathon training recovery.

Why so soon?

Your body recognises that its glycogen levels are depleted and its muscles have been worked hard, so it’s actively hunting for sources of carbohydrates and protein.

Nutritionalists recommend a carb/protein ratio of 3:1 – for every 3g of carbohydrates you consume, have 1g of protein.

The sooner you can deliver this food, the more effective the recovery process will be.

We therefore recommend a good-sized portion of food as soon as your appetite allows for it.

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Remember, focus on choosing something that is rich in both carbs and protein (and it has to be somewhat tasty, too…)

Some recovery food ideas include:

 – A medium serving of pasta with meatballs

 – A recovery smoothie with vanilla protein powder, peanut butter, and oats

–  A loaded omelette on toast.

– Chocolate milk, chicken breast, greek yoghurt, and protein bars all do the job too!

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2. Massage and Foam Rolling

Massaging tired muscles is a form of myofascial release, which is the process of relieving stress in soft tissues.  By breaking down and loosening tightness in muscles, you are promoting healthy and full muscular regeneration.

When you’re in marathon training, you want to be focussing on all parts of the lower body.

The upper legs (glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hip area) are particularly susceptible to tightness and weakness after logging many miles.

The best form of massage is simply hiring a masseuse to give you regular sports massages.

Now, obviously this isn’t so easy for all of us. 

Costs aside, the best time for massage is immediately following your run workout; trying to co-ordinate this with a masseuse might not always be so practical.

So what other options exist?

The number one option is a foam roller.foam roller allows you to massage your joints and lower-body muscles yourself, reducing any inflammation in the soft tissue and aiding recovery.

How To Incorporate Foam Rolling Into Your Run Training and Marathon Training Recovery

Here’s how to foam roll when in marathon training mode:

You should foam roll for 5 minutes before each run, and 10 minutes afterwards.

Spend 1-2 minutes on each main area, working gradually up and around each leg, ensuring you cover key areas like the glutes, IT band, piriformis, hamstrings, and quads.

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Foam rolling the glutes

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Foam rolling the IT Band

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Foam rolling the quads

Other Forms of Self-Massage for Runners

 As well as foam rolling, there are various options for providing myofascial release, and smoothing out those stressed muscles.

Here are a few of our favourites for marathon training recovery!

Trigger Point Balls

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This little balls are specifically designed for self-massage; the material is forgiving enough, while allowing for deep pressure to be applied, much like a masseuse’s thumbs.

It’s small enough to fit inside your gym bag or take to the office, and can be used to work the entire body! 

Treat it like a mini-foam roller.

Check them out on Amazon.

Foot Roller

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Perfect for massaging out tired feet after a long run (or just a long day in office shoes), you can happily use this roller as you relax in front of the TV each evening.

The trigger point features specifically target the stressed parts of your soles; this is the closest you can get to having a private reflexologist in your home!

Check them out on Amazon.

The RENPHO Leg Massager

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This leg massage tool is simply awesome – it uses air pressure to provide various levels of compression to your feet, calves, and thighs.

This can be a good way of increasing blood flow following a workout, and gently massaging tired muscles.

It really has to be tried to be appreciated !

Check them out on Amazon.

G3 Pro Massage Gun 

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If you’re looking to get serious on your self-massage, get a massage gun.

The G3 Pro is a perfect option – its handheld, and provides a concentrated, deep pulse to your strained muscles – essentially providing a targeted deep-tissue massage.

It’s what the pros are using.

Check them out on Amazon.

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3. Cold Therapy for Marathon Training Recovery

When we’re talking about cold therapy, there are a few different methods to discuss.

First let’s cover the fundamentals behind it:

When exposed to the cold, your blood vessels constrict. 

Once they get a chance to warm up again, blood flushes through them and can help clear out lactic acid – allowing for a faster recovery.   

The cold exposure should also help reduce swelling and inflammation.

While ice baths are a great option, somehow getting a hold of all that ice and having it ready after each run is just not that practical!

Some of the best alternatives are:

Cold Water Plunge Pools

Many gyms and spas have these small pools which are specifically maintained at cold temperatures.

Submerse yourself in one post-run for as long as you comfortably can, then take a warm shower to heat up and flush out that lactic acid!

Alternatives to this can be cold outdoor swimming pools, or if you’re feeling brave – the ocean! 

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This guy’s getting ready to flush out those pesky lactic acids

Ice Packs

A great way to target tired muscles and inflamed joints is with an ice pack, such as the FlexiKold Gel ice pack.

Take it out of the freezer and wrap it around the knee, hip, or leg you wish to target, and let the cool sensation soothe your body. It’s also useful for injury recovery!

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4. Rehydrate!

A simple point, but remember to rehydrate after your run!

Runners sweat more fluid than they can consume while running.

Therefore one of the first things to do when you finish a run is to replenish your levels of H20!

If helps with circulation, lowers your core temperature, and lubricates the joints.

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5. Other Tricks of the Trade

I surveyed our community of marathon runners in-training, and got the following suggestions for recovery aids:

Epsom salts in a hot bath are popular – they have a soothing quality which can help relax your muscles, and help you un-wind!

Using Deep Heat or Tiger Balm on the major leg muscles can really soothe aches, and help your muscles relax.

Finally, beer and ice cream were suggested by a few runners. Sometimes it is just as important to give yourself a reward as it is to be constantly focussed on your goal.

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What did we miss?

What methods, tricks, and products do you use for rapid recovery after going for a run?

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

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