Training for a full or half marathon is no small feat. It demands strong mental and physical endurance, stamina, and consistent workouts — arduous, several miles long, occasionally uphill, fatigue-filled workouts. But marathon training isn’t just about the running! It also requires following proper recovery practices to keep you healthy and on-track with your goals
Why is recovery during marathon training so important? “If someone is not taking proper care of their body while training, they risk injury, their immune system may become compromised, and their overall performance will suffer,” warns Fabian Traugutt, former pro soccer player for Poland and New York-based personal trainer.
If you want to make sure you’re doing your best to strengthen your body and prevent injury during your half or full marathon training, there are a few recovery hacks you can follow.
5 Recovery Tips to Follow During Marathon Training
Here are some of the best tips for optimizing recovery during marathon (or half marathon) training so you can train harder, maintain peak performance, and — most importantly — race faster!
1. Get Enough Sleep
Your muscles need time to recuperate after running, and one of the best times to do that is when you’re sleeping. Even if your schedule starts to feel packed as you increase the number of miles you run each week, don’t cut corners when it comes to how much time you snooze.
The CDC recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night, and for good reason. Getting enough sleep is associated with improved performance and competitive success, may reduce the risk of both injury and illness in athletes, and can also potentially enhance performance through increased participation in training, according to a 2017 review in Current Sports Medicine Reports.
If your runs are starting to feel sluggish, check your sleep schedule to see if you’re skimping on the z’s. And remember that sleep quality is important, too. Here are some natural sleep remedies to help you snooze even more soundly.
2. Utilize Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is a great recovery tool for relieving muscle tension and inflammation. Adding some massage time into your marathon recovery plan is a great way to keep your muscles in top shape as you put them through repeated strenuous activity.
Professional massages are always a nice treat, but they can be pretty pricey. “If manual therapy by a professional is not an option, try self-myofascial release,” says fitness expert Alicia Angelini, NASM, CPT, FNS, CES, SFG II. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds — foam-rolling falls into this category of massage! “The theory behind this tool of self-manual therapy is to improve muscle function, range of motion, and flexibility, if used consistently over a period of time,” Angelini explains.
Plus, foam rollers won’t take a huge hit to your bank account. You can snag this one on Amazon for under $10.
3. Eat Properly
Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand, and this is especially important during the physically taxing process of marathon training.
“There is a loss of water and electrolytes (when you run for 60 minutes or more), so consume drinks which contain electrolytes and simple sugars that can easily be broken down and used for fuel (during long runs),” advises Angelini.
When it comes to fueling (and refueling) your body, Angelini recommends fast-absorbing carbs. “A few of my favorites are bananas, quick oats, dried fruit, and of course, pasta!” she says.
As for protein, it’s recommended that people normally consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilograms of body mass. But marathon runners aren’t normal. The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends that athletes consume 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To hit this mark, stock up on excellent sources of complete protein like chicken, shrimp, eggs, and soy (tofu, edamame, tempeh).
4. Taper Your Exercises Before Your Marathon
As you get closer to race day, the importance of proper recovery practices increases. One tactic is to taper, which has been shown to improve performance during marathon training.
Tapering focuses on the “methodical reduction of duration and intensity prior to competition to achieve adequate recovery, rehydration, and increased muscle and liver glycogen stores,” says Angelini.
“The best way to get optimal recovery is to listen to your body,” adds Traugutt. “There should be an easy, medium, hard, and recovery day. Overtraining and lack of recovery will only cause a setback in your race program.”
5. Pay Mind to Mental Fatigue
It’s important to remember that mental fatigue can also plague long-distance runners. “The mental battle with this level of athletic event is just as hard, if not harder than the physical one faced during training. Mindset is crucial to preparedness,” says Angelini.
Ways to fight mental fatigue, she says, is through visualization and meditation. “Go through every step of the race, game, or routine exactly how you want it to play out,” Angelini suggests. “Meditation is a great way to keep your mind clear and calm from any negativity that may want to creep in.”
She also points out that it’s not about perfection, so you may have days that feel like a struggle — and that’s OK. It’s about showing up and giving it your best, not always being the best.