HCA Virginia Physicians
November 03, 2015

By Jonathan Wilson, DPT – HCA Virginia Sports Medicine

Recovering from a race is an important aspect to a perfect training plan. This is often an aspect overlooked, or neglected by runners. Some runners are still feeling positive from a great race and are excited to get back to running, while other runners are looking for redemption for a less than ideal race. No matter the motivation to resume training, it is important to take time off from running and let your body rest and heel.


Research supports the following body systems need time to repair following running a marathon:
  1. Skeletal Muscle
  2. Cellular Damage
  3. Immune System


Most likely you will not feel hungry immediately after finishing your race. However, still grab some type of fruit, energy bar, bagel, and fluids to take with you as you go to celebrate with your friends. You will get hungry later.

Eating carbs and protein during the recovery period has been shown to help assist with the repair of muscle damage, while the fruits can give a boost of vitamin C and antioxidants to assist your immune system.

Days Following Race 1-3:

Run: None

Cross Training: None

Gentle stretching, and light massage can be used to help loosen up stiff muscles.

Yep, you heard correctly, no running. You want to take at least 3 days off from running. There is very little to gain by rushing back to pounding a few miles, and the risk of injury has been shown to be very high. Get back into your normal daily routine, and walk. This will help facilitate blood flow through your muscles.

Days Following Race 4-7:

Run: 1 day, very easy up to 4 miles.

Cross Training: Goal is to warm up muscles, and increase blood flow. 1-2 days, up to 40 minutes, minimal effort

Continue with stretching, progressing to deep tissue massage.

Days Following Race 7-14:

Run: Progress up to 3-4 days, up to 6 easy miles

Cross Training: 1-3 sessions, progressing to 2 medium sessions; up to 45 minutes

Continue stretching

Days Following Race 14-21:

Run: 3-5 runs up to 8 miles, can also complete running drills (very gentle) such as strides, butt kickers, and high knees

Cross Training: 1-3 sessions, progressing to 1 easy, 1 medium, and 1 hard session; up to 50 minutes

The main goal to the recovery phase is to recover. Allow your body to fully rest and heel from your previous race. A marathon runner will need more time to recover, compared to a ½ marathon runner, compared to an 8K runner. Also, enjoy your accomplishment. Bask in the glow of completing your race, you earned it. Remember too, every runner’s body will respond differently following a race. Just as, every runners’ body might need more, or less time to fully recover. Listen you’re your body. If you don’t feel like running, don’t. Your body just ran 26.2 miles, 13.1 miles, or 8k, it’s okay to allow a little extra time for a full recovery. Your body will thank you. Plus, it could save you a trip from one of our clinics.

Run happy.

For further inquiries about running injuries or performance, contact Jonathan Wilson, DPT, at HCA Virginia Sports Medicine’s Boulders location, at (804) 560-6500, or like us on Facebook.