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Recovery Tips Following a Marathon

Posted January 24, 2023 by Ron Burdette, AT

Woman laying on running track

Congratulations for competing in an Akron Marathon Series Event! Now that the hardest work is over, it is time to focus on the recovery phase. It is important to note that many factors contribute to post-race recovery; including the intensity of the race, your overall health and weather conditions. Every recovery is different, but here are tips to accelerate the healing process. 

  • Continue walking at least 10 to 15 minutes after finishing the race. This will allow your heart rate to gradually drop and circulation to return to its resting state. It also flushes lactic acid from the muscles.


  • Find a nice cool, shaded spot to do the yoga pose “Legs up on the Wall” for five to 10 minutes. This too will help with circulation and gently stretch the hamstrings.


  • Eat a small snack consisting of 200-300 calories. Within 30 to 60 minutes post-race, your body is starving for easily digestible carbohydrates and proteins. Many races with have a snack at the finish line. Ideal snacks include bananas, almond butter sandwiches, a sports drink or citrus fruit. The main objective is to feed the body to maintain blood sugar levels, replenish muscle glycogen and repair muscle tissue.
  • Drink something with electrolytes. Hydration is key not only during the race, but also during the recovery phase as well. While water may do the trick, you are better off drinking coconut water, a sports drink or some slightly diluted juice.


  • Soak in cold water or an ice bath for 5 to 10 minutes to decrease inflammation in your legs and increase the rate of healing. It is important to note that colder is not necessarily better when it comes to cold tubs for healing purposes. Cold tub temperatures ranging from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit have shown to be just as beneficial to ice tub temperatures ranging from 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. 


  • Do some gentle stretching following your cool down. You should stretch your calves, hamstrings, quads, IT band and piriformis. There are many options for each muscle group. Find stretches that you enjoy and perform three sets holding 30 secs each. It is important to keep the stretching gentle initially following your cool down. Many experts recommend waiting two to six hours after the race to perform more aggressive stretching techniques and foam rolling with massages at least 24 hours post-race. 


Foam rolling is a newer tool used by a wide range of athletes, especially runners. Runners should roll for many reasons, including sedentary lifestyles, overworked muscles, decreased range of motion, and myofascial adhesions. These adhesions, “knots,” or trigger points will lead to reduced flexibility and muscle efficiency, which ultimately leads to pain and injury. Foam rolling techniques have shown to improve range of motion, flexibility, and movement, increase blood flow, and assist in returning your muscles to normal function. There are four key steps to foam rolling:


  1. Roll the entire length of the muscle eight to 10 times.
  2. Return to any tender areas and maintain pressure (especially with trigger points).
  3. Breathe deeply and relax for 30 to 45 seconds.
  4. As tenderness disperses, move onto the next tender area. 


It is important to relax with foam rolling exercises, with slow and deliberate movements. There is no set time or rep range. The main objective is to release tight muscles, increase flexibility, and promote muscle and joint health. Stick to foam rolling the muscle’s belly as opposed to the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone. As with stretching, you should focus on different muscle groups. We encourage you to research techniques for the feet, calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, piriformis, IT band, lower back (lumbar spine), mid back (thoracic spine) and upper back (cervical spine). 

Once again, congratulations on competing in the Goodyear Akron Marathon Race Series! We hope you find these tips useful and that you enjoyed the festivities. If you are unsure of any of the techniques, or find them too painful, do not hesitate to seek the advice and assistance of the professionals at Summa Health Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Institute.


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If your situation is an emergency, call 911.