How to Recover from a Marathon

Fitness instructor and marathoner Ali Baldassare offers her tips.

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon photo by Olga Khvan

In the months and weeks before a marathon, many runners create a training regimen and follow it with absolute accuracy. But what happens post-race, after the training plan ends?

We spoke with Ali Baldassare, group fitness manager at Equinox, creator of Move Sweat Love, and four-year Boston Marathon veteran, about how to recover from a marathon properly.

Right after the race:

Sodium is key. After running for hours, your body needs to replenish fluids, nutrients, and sodium. Baldassare says high-sodium foods—she likes warm chicken broth—can help lessen painful cramping.

Go for easily digestible foods. It’s important to consume calories after so much physicl activity, but be kind to your body. Baldassare says to pick the easy-to-digest foods—such as bananas, chips, snack bars, and fruit cups—from the post-race snack bag.

Night after the marathon:

Go for the big meal. After burning hundreds and hundreds of calories during the marathon, your body needs fuel. “Obviously, your body can’t absorb a lot of food at once right after a marathon,” Baldassare says. “Having a good meal a couple of hours afterward and then just relaxing for the night is my go-to plan.”

Sleep well. Unfortunately, you may not get your best night of sleep right after the marathon. Baldassare finds that she often wakes up because her legs are sore and her body is still coming down from the adrenaline high. Still, she says it’s important to rest and try to sleep well to help the body recover.

The following days:

Keep moving. After the marathon, Baldassare lays low, but avoids being totally sedentary. “Every 20 minutes or every hour, I get up and walk around or go for a walk,” she says. “I’ve found that it’s really helpful to keep moving.”

Get a massage. A massage can help the recovery process by improving blood flow and circulation. Baldassare avoids deep-tissue massages, but usually gets a relaxing massage a few days after the race.

Avoid doing too much, too soon. Don’t jump right back into your fitness routine. Wait a week and ease back into it, working out for enjoyment rather than for intensity. Baldassare usually does cross-training, yoga, or the elliptical to get back into exercise.

Pay attention to your body. “The biggest thing that I do, and that I tell people to do, is just really pay attention to the way their body feels,” Baldassare says. Take diet, exercise, and lifestyle cues from your body, and give it what it needs.