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How I Recover From a Race

Hi friends! I hope you had a great weekend.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the lessons learned from marathon training, which talked a lot about fueling and how I trained for the race on the front end. But, I also thought it would be appropriate to discuss the importance of recovery as well.

Without proper recovery and nutrition, our bodies can’t bounce back as quickly or we run the risk of being injured or overtrained.

This post is very timely as I am just recovering from being sick for a week. I exercised one time in the past week, and I ate alot of simple carbs and sweets – aren’t carbs what we all crave when we’re sick?

But the thought of exercise.. I just couldn’t think about putting any additional stress on my body. I’m finally on the tail end of this cold, but like many of the points below, rest, recovery and sleep is how I beat it.


How to Recover from a race

It took me a good three weeks to recover from my marathon. When we race long distances, we are pushing our muscles, bones, tendons and body to the max.

Running a marathon, or really any race, is stressful on the body.

There’s constant inflammation happening. One study has shown that it can take up to two weeks for our muscles to return to full strength.

So, with that being said, you can’t expect to turn around and race the next day or even the next weekend without allowing those muscles to return to full strength.

While most often, our muscles just need time to recover, there are also other practices I like to incorporate to speed up recovery.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling and using the stick are great for targeting certain sore areas. For example, I’m usually most sore in my hamstrings so I love rolling over them. However, last spring when I had some hip issues, these helped too.

When there is a lot of stress and inflammation in the muscle, these are great for breaking it up (kind of like a massage does). You can apply as little or as much pressure as you’d like.

How I Recover From a Race

Sleep and Rest

Did you know that sleep is so important to recovery? Sleep clears our mind, rids the brain of toxins and wastes, This Ted Talk is great at explaining it.

After a marathon or intense/long race, our immune system is weaker. This speaks even more to the importance of sleep and rest to help our bodies, muscles and immune systems recover.


Walking still allows blood to reach your muscles without putting stress or strain on the body. Gentle walking, even shortly after a race,  helps bring nutrients to our sore muscles and helps our muscles recycle wastes and byproducts.

Some people say a gentle, light jog is okay for the same reasons, but I stuck with walking for the first week or so.

How to Recover from a race

Yoga and Stretching

There’s a great deep stretch for athletes hot yoga class that I love at my local yoga studio. It helps you get into those deep poses and release toxins.

This all helps to stimulate new, oxygenated blood to those muscles. Pigeon pose has come to be my favorite.

Often times I’m so tight and I just need a good hour of deep stretches to release some of the stress.

How I Recover From a Race

If you don’t enjoy going to yoga classes or it’s not in your budget, this and this are my favorite to do at home.

Eat and Stop Worrying About Calories

The nutrition part is really part of my specialty.

Give your body what it craves! You worked hard, you depleted your glycogen (stored sugars), you broke down your muscles… if your body wants sugar and refined carbs, then have those until you don’t want them anymore.

How to Recover After a Race

Of course, it’s important to focus on nutritious foods, too. Like Vitamin C rich foods (oranges, broccoli, red pepper, dark greens) since it’s an antioxidant to help deal with the oxidants that come with running.

And blueberries, for their antioxidant properties and ability to reduce muscle damage. Also, iron rich foods, like meats, dark greens, legumes, and soy to help increase oxygen flow through your body and to your tissues.

Potassium rich foods like potatoes, bananas and squash, for their electrolyte properties. Here’s a more extensive list of recovery foods.

How to Recover After a Race

Tart Cherry Juice is also pretty potent for helping to decrease inflammation. It helps increase our body’s total antioxidant capacity, meaning room for more!

Studies have shown that those who take tart cherry juice have lower inflammatory markers in their blood.

Ice or Ice Baths

Though these aren’t my favorite, the chilling temps are great for reducing swelling and helping with inflammation.

By constricting blood vessels through cold water, it helps deliver fresh oxygen to your muscle cells. This can help with repairing muscles and tendons as well.

Epsom Salt Baths

These are probably my favorite. While ice baths are great too, I find epsom salt warm baths much more enjoyable, especially in the winter weather.

The epsom salts dissolve into magnesium and sulfate, both of which are easily absorbed through the skin.

Epsom salt baths can help regulate electrolytes and help decrease inflammation.

How to Recover After a Race

I have been using San Francisco Salt Company Epsom Sport Salts for the relaxation and to soothe my aches and pains. I woke up the day after last weekend’s speedy half marathon with really sore calves.

So, I downloaded a podcast and just soaked in epsom salts. I took a bath the next day too, and my calves felt a million times better. You just add 2 cups into your bath water.

The salts will dissolve quicker if you put them under running water.

How I Recover From a Race

Anything that has been around for hundreds of years has to be onto something, right?

Self Care

This may be reading, light yoga or walking, taking a bath, lighting a candle, journaling, talking to loved ones, going to a movie, star gazing, etc.

Anything that relaxes you is important for balancing your hormones, managing stress and keeping you happy.

While you can’t necessarily control your inflammation levels, this is how you can manage your external stressors and cortisol levels.

How do you recover from something stressful?


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  1. Love Epsom salt baths. I was so much better about the baths during previous marathon cycles. Just love your comments about eating what your body is telling you. I know there is reason to that but I get caught up in how clean other competitor runners are eating and feel so guilty not eating perfect.

  2. I remember doing a lot of these things when I was recovering from my marathon. Icing the sides of my knees definitely helped a lot and walking were super helpful to me. Walking was definitely pretty slow for those first few days. I also remember being ridiculously tired and needing 10+ hours of sleep to feel even remotely rested. Listening to my body and loving it after all the ridiculous things I put it through is how I try to recover!

  3. I love all the balance you have prescribed here, ice cream and salad, rest and walking. 🙂 I love to walk especially after a race to get all those kinks and the soreness out of my legs. And Epsom salt baths are so glorious; I love them!

  4. I’m pretty good at recovery. 🙂 Just a sloth by nature! But I’m also pretty careful with the simple carbs — I actually don’t think they’re super important for recovery & actually don’t do our immune systems much good at all. Not that I don’t partake (just look at my dessert on this week’s blog!).

    Maybe I’d feel differently if I ever ran a marathon (I’m only half crazy),

  5. These are all excellent tips. I think my favorite is a hot bath, with Epsom salts it I have any. LOL. I like using my foam roller too but usually wait a day or two after a hard race/effort to let the swelling subside first. I’m looking forward to my next recovery period happening in a few weeks. I know I’m overdue for one as I didn’t take much time after my last marathon. Thanks for linking, Sarah.

  6. Hot yoga is great, but I have been pressed for time and haven’t been able to work a class into my schedule yet. I was thinking of going to one tomorrow morning before heading to work, so maybe I will do that. I also love Epsom salt soaks! I usually use that a lot as I also am not a fan of ice baths unless absolutely needed.

  7. Yay for epsom salts! Baths are so relaxing for stressful times! If I don’t have enough time for that, I sometimes try for a face mask and a short nap.

  8. Pigeon pose is my favorite too! I have never taken an epson salt bath, but I bet that would help recovery a ton, I have read so many benefits of them.

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