Take care of yourself immediately.
Your recovery starts the second you cross that finish line. If you're experiencing a lot of pain, feel light-headed, or just not right, head immediately to the medical tent – it should be right next to the finish line. Make sure you drink and eat something right away. Resist the urge to plop down on the ground -- your legs will stiffen up right away if you do. Walk around for at least 10 minutes to bring your heart rate down safely and avoid the risk of blood pooling in your legs.
Drink, drink, drink.Restoring your fluid balance is a critical part of the recovery process. Drink a combination of water and sports drinks to replenish lost fluids, sodium and electrolytes.
Take an ice bath.
If you can tolerate it, taking an ice bath within a few hours, or even the next day, after your marathon can help speed up your recovery. If you just can't do an ice bath, use ice packs on especially sore spots, such as your quads and knees. Whatever you do, don't soak in a hot tub.
Eat healthy.Stick to a balanced diet with plenty of good carbohydrates and protein to help repair and rebuild those damaged muscles.
More: How to Avoid Post-Marathon Weight Gain
Resist the temptation to start running again.
Even if you're not feeling sore or fatigued, take a few days off from running. Don't worry about losing fitness -- your body needs rest. Go for a walk if you want to stretch your legs, or do low-impact cross training such as swimming. When you start running again, keep your runs short and easy for a couple of weeks. Your body will still be recovering, and running too hard or too many miles could increase your chance of injury.
Do some light stretching every day, but be careful not to overstretch.
Get plenty of rest.Sleep is crucial for the recovery process. Listen to your body and don't feel guilty about sleeping a lot -- it's normal.
Go for a massage.
Massage is a great relief for your muscle pain and stiffness. Wait at least 2-3 hours after your marathon before you get a massage, or do it the day after your marathon. Just make sure the masseuse keeps it gentle.
Battle the blues.
You've trained so hard, scheduled your life around your running, and now you've accomplished your goal. It's normal -- and actually very common -- to feel somewhat depressed and disconnected once your race is over. The best way to cure the post-race blues is to set a new goal. Give yourself a few weeks to recover and pick out another race. (And it doesn’t have to be a marathon!)
Savor your accomplishment.Keep patting yourself on the back. Look at your pictures from the race and realize what an amazing accomplishment you've achieved. Put your marathon medal on and remember what it felt like to cross that finish line.
What to Do After You Finish a Marathon
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