How to recover after a marathon?

Most marathon training programs take you up to race day and then leave you to fend for yourselves during one of the most vital training phases. Optimum recovery from the marathon is important because what you do can have long-term consequences for both your health and future performance. During a marathon you push your body beyond your limits causing massive muscle and connective tissue destruction. If left untreated the physiological effects can lead to injury, illness and even depression.

This can affect your normal life activities as well as your running ability. On the upside, improvements in fitness come from overloading your body and then recovering properly. There are not too many things you can do more challenging then a marathon. Because of this the marathon represents a great opportunity to improve your fitness. The key to achieving this improvement is recovery. What you do after the marathon will help you gain the fitness benefits from having completed such a hard long run.

How soon?

The main difficulty during recovery is knowing how soon you can run again. This is complicated by the varied amount of damage that is inflicted for different runners and different races and conditions. It takes less time to recover from a fast marathon where you finished strong then a slow marathon where you hit the wall and had to stagger into the finish. Hot weather conditions or hills will increase recovery time. What you do just after you finish can decrease your recovery time. Your recovery should be flexible and managed based on how you respond both physically and mentally.

How hard should I run?

An easy way to understand training theory is to examine it based on three major components of Intensity, Quantity and Frequency. Regardless of what phase you are in, or what theories you believe, all training is founded upon these three components. It is how the intensity, quantity and frequency vary during each phase that describes what you are doing to try to achieve progression, periodisation and success. During recovery training intensity and quantity will initially be very low and gradually increase as your body gets stronger. If you try to run hard or long too soon you can delay full recovery. Because you only improve while recovering from hard efforts you will also lose any benefits you could have gained from running the marathon if you start hard training too soon.

How often?

Frequency is the only thing that should be maintained during the recovery phase. Normal intense training and racing damages some muscle fibres. The scope of destruction after a marathon includes the macrostructure of the muscles and connective tissue. If you run at least every second day you will break the muscles down a little bit each time. This will allow the macrostructure of the muscle to be rebuilt in the right way. The cellular microstructure will not recover any quicker if you do no running in the first week or if you run every second day. But the advantage of easy running is that the muscles will have less scar tissue that can lead to injury further down the track.

How long till a long run?

An old theory for recovery used to recommend that you give yourself one day of recovery for every mile of the race. For a marathon of 26.2 miles this would be about four weeks of recovery before you try to train properly again or run another race. However it is dangerous to lump everyone and every experience into one simple calculation. How long it takes to recover depends on the difficulty of your race experience and what you have done to try to recover.

Rather than think of an arbitrary number to calculate how long it takes to recover you should listen to your body. Train easy and avoid building up mileage until you get that zip back in your stride. It can be easy to tell that you are not recovered because even easy runs are a struggle. You may be sore after running and can’t maintain any speed for very long. I usually recommend to wait one until I feel fully recovered and can push the pace along. I then feel it is safe to commence the build up of long runs back.

How to help recovery?

What you do after you finish a race can have a drastic effect on your recovery time. In fact recovery training starts before you even finish your marathon. The most important factor of this immediate recovery involves re-hydration and nutrition. While you might think that drinking in the last few kilometres is not necessary to improve your performance in that particular race, it will have an affect on your recovery. During a marathon you can sweat out nearly ten percent of your body weight. This is significant for your performance but also affects the amount of damage that occurs. Fluid helps to transport resources used to rebuild damaged muscle to where it is needed.

It is also important to remove heat from the location of the damage to release it from the skin. Muscles and the liver are completely depleted of glycogen at the end of a marathon. This source of energy is more effective at rebuilding muscles so you must replace glycogen as soon as possible after you finish. The best way to do this is by drinking a sports drink or soft drink within the first few minutes of finishing. This helps to re-hydrate at the same time as replacing some glycogen. In fact if you drink just water it will not stay in your system as well as if you drink something with some sugar and salt in it. Within the first ten minutes you should begin to eat some carbohydrate rich solid foods. Fruit is easy to get down and has high levels of fluid as well as important vitamins to help you recover. After the first half-hour you have missed your opportunity to replace water and glycogen optimally.

Massage is often available at the end of races. Because of the major cellular destruction that has occurred mechanical manipulation of this damaged tissue will just cause greater damage. You should avoid any massage until the initial inflammation has subsided. This can take a few days. After the inflammation has gone down then massage can be very beneficial to proper recovery.

How to race again?

You know you are recovered from a marathon when you are able to race well again. But what do you do if you want to run two marathons within a few weeks or months of each other? The key to frequent marathons is to train sensibly between them. Do not think that you have to get in some good quality training in between. It is more important that you recover properly from the first marathon and are rested for the second one. There is no better training for a marathon then running another marathon. A marathon race exactly simulates what will be required for running a marathon. As long as you recover properly you will gain the benefits from the first marathon and will be able to run even better at the next one.


No matter how well you have planned your recovery program things may not work out the way you wanted. You might be taking longer to get over the pain of the marathon or picked up a niggling injury from the race. This will force you to rethink what you should do. Blindly sticking to your plan will lead to poor recovery, overtraining and probable injury or illness. A responsive recovery program will have the capability of changing based on how you are coping with the recovery. It will have contingencies built in so you can change sessions around and increase your recovery time if needed. Intensity is not fixed at a certain level but responds to how you are feeling without any major failure of the program. By responding to how the recovery is going you can optimise the benefits you have gained from running a marathon and take your performances to another level in the future.


Article written by podiatrist, level 4 athletics coach and 2hr30 marathon runner, Steve Manning.

For more running injury and training articles, click here.

Tools to stay injury free

Article by: Emily Donker (podiatrist, coach and runner)

Tools and tips to stay injury free

If you’re a runner, chances are you hate being unable to run. Staying injury-free is the best way to maintain consistent training. Getting a regular massage can reduce injury risk, but unfortunately, many runners don’t always have the time to prioritize massage within day to day life.

Thankfully there are some great tools you can use for self-massage which, if used correctly, can reduce the need for a sports massage. Two of the best tools that should be in every runners household are, foam rollers and trigger balls. We have both available at the intraining Running Centre.


When to use a foam roller?

Using a foam roller is great for relieving tension from, and flushing larger muscles – generally longer muscles such as the hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, ITB and through your back. Typically rollers are used on the ground (or against a wall) such that you can move your body and the target muscle across the roller. Foam rollers are available in various sizes and textures (eg. smooth vs bumpy).

How to use a foam roller?

Using a foam roller is easy to do and can be done in front of the TV without much concentration required. Using your foam roller as ‘resting’ point, gently apply pressure to the area you are targeting by lying on the roller. Use your weight to apply pressure as required. If you need additional support to reduce the pressure, use your hands.


When to use a trigger ball?

Trigger balls are perfect for releasing muscle knots and tension, particularly in deeper and bulkier muscles. Tight spots within longer muscles, plus the glutes, piriformis, hip flexors, erector spinae (lower back) and muscles around the shoulders all respond well to trigger point therapy.

How to use a trigger ball?

Find a tender spot and keep the pressure on for 30sec – 2min. They’re a great self-release tool, particularly if you travel a lot and are limited for space. Again, trigger balls are available in a range of sizes and textures.

intraining Running Centre has a range of foam rollers and trigger balls on offer. Our staff are all runners and can help guide you in the right direction to determine which tool will be best for your needs.

If you are experiencing pains that feel like they are more than just a niggle, or have an injury that just won’t leave you alone – come see one of our podiatry or physiotherapy team. For bookings, please call us at the intraining Running Injury Clinic on 3367 3088, or book online.

Make appointment

Love 2 Run January news

intraining’s monthly Love 2 Run e-News – January 2016
February is almost here with the first month of 2016 almost done and dusted. Many of you have set New Year Resolutions, which we are sure you are all keeping to…

For those very few that are struggling with motivation in the sticky heat, there are a few little things inside the January edition of Love2Run’s monthly enews below which can provide that source of motivation you are looking for.

In this this issue:
Asics Lite-Show: Brighten up your day with new reflective apparel
Challenge yourself: The easy way to run a half or full marathon in 2016
Fuel your run: Carbohydrates vs Fat… Is there a ‘best’
Running Form Workshop: Run faster & easier with less injury in 2016
Twilight Running Festival: Full size range of singlets available to try

Tired legs? Get in for a tune up at intraining Balance, Core and Rehab Studio

Did you know running facts – Part 21
Men run faster than women due to a number of factors: more muscleMale vs Women... mass, bigger lung capacity, higher levels of testosterone etc… Running economy however tend to be similar.

On the other hand, women who get in shape through running, quickly experience big changes. Their legs and back become toned more quickly and they also lose a few inches off their waists faster than men.

Stay healthy, keep active and have a happy run!

NEW Asics Lite-Show apparel available in store
Prepare to glow during your next pre/post sun run
Running when the sun is down can be an exhilirating experience… often for the wrong reasons. As slimming as black is when it comes to clothing, it can often be unsafe as you dodge cars and bikes who can’t see you.

Well now thanks to Asics’ NEW Lite-Show apparel line, you can have the latest reflective thread available whilst still looking great. Check Ash on our facebook page to brighten you night. Wide range of singlets, shorts and tights available in store.

New Asics Lite-Show apparel - Available at intraining Running Centre

Want to challenge yourself in 2016?
Go back to school with Marathon School
Making the decision to challenge yourself is the first step to realising your goals. If you want to run a half or full marathon you need a lot of time to train… right? Wrong… at intraining Marathon School we have successfully helped people of all abilities train for a half or full marathon with just three key sessions per week.

If you want to find out more, come to our FREE information launch on Sunday 31 January. Ask questions, listen to stories and join in the fun – no obligation to join.

Where: 33 Park Road, Milton
When: Sunday 31 January 2016
Time: 9:00am

Half marathon too far? NEW in 2016, the Couch 2 10k program is designed to help you take the next step up, from weekly parkrun events.

We are here to help you with your goals in 2016

Fuel your run – by Liz Lovering (dietitian)
Carbohydrate and fat … is there a ‘best’?
Our daily food choices provide us with the energy to move and although many nutrients are involved in energy production the two main ones are carbohydrate and fat.

Glucose (obtained from carbohydrate foods) is a very efficient fuel as it can provide energy quickly, without oxygen or when oxygen is a limiting factor (high intensity running). However once we slow down and more oxygen becomes available the contribution of fat as a fuel increases. These different energy systems work… click here to read the full article ‘Fuel Your Run’ in the January edition of ‘From the Sole’ newsletter.

Click here to read the full From the Sole Clinic eNewsletter for this month

‘From the Sole’ articles are written by our intraining Running Injury Clinic podiatry, physiotherapy, dietitian and massage therapy team.

Make an appointment to see one of our clinicians who can assist with diagnosing and treating your running related injury.

Click here to view running injury articles and tips from our clinicians

Running Form Workshop 2016 – 3 weeks in February
The secret to running faster with less injury in 2016
Ever wondered if your running style is correct? Find you’re frequently injured? Want to improve your technique and run easier? The three part 2016 Form Workshop series can help you improve quicker than you thought possible.

When: 6th, 13th and 20th February 2016
Where: University of Queensland Athletics Track
Cost: $99.00 (enrol online here)
Who: Beginner and Advanced sessions
Session 1: 3:00pm-4:10pm for those who run over 25mins for 5km
Session 2: 4:30pm – 5:40pm for those who run under 25mins for 5km

Click here to see more information
2016 intraining Running Form Workshop


Twilight Running Festival – 20 March 2016
Want to try on the 2016 Twilight event singlet or long sleeve tee?
We have recently received the 2016 funky and bright Twilight Running Festival singlets and long sleeve tee shirts in the full size range – including kids singlets in store for trying on.

(register before midnight 1 March and save $$$)

Join in the fun of the Twilight Run and receive one of the following with your registration; 2016 event singlet, Twilight Towel or Twilight Run Visor. Click here to see the funky new designs in 2016

Early bird entry ends 1 March - Register now and save up to $10