Five things you should do immediately after running a marathon

While it’s tempting to inhale a ton of bagels or crawl into a ball and cry after running more than 26 miles, keep these five things in mind after completing a marathon.

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1.  Keep walking

After reaching the finish line, your first instinct may be to stop and celebrate. Fight the urge and walk for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Although you’re done running, your body is still in marathon mode and needs time to assimilate. Maintaining a steady walk will allow your heart rate to gradually fall and all the lactic acid in your muscles to slowly wash away.

2.  Hydrate

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Wait at least 30 minutes before drinking fluids. Make sure to pace yourself. It’s nearly impossible to replace all the fluids lost from the race, so partial fluid replacement is the goal. The key is to drink small quantities of fluids over long periods of time. This will help replenish your body’s water supply. Consume sport drinks or other sodium-containing beverages to help replace the lost of sodium.

3. Refuel

Eat a small snack after your run, but save your appetite for a hearty meal for later. Make sure your “big meal” is a mix of carbs, which will help restock any glycogen (or energy stores), and protein, which will help repair any damage to your muscle tissue. Marathon training websites and physicians recommend 15 to 25 grams of protein and 50 to 75 grams of carbs.

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4.  Recover

Take it easy for the rest of the day. You deserve it. Wait at least six hours before breaking out a foam roll to stretch out your sore muscles, and wait at least 24 hours before the next massage. It’s important to give your body the appropriate time to replenish any lost fluids from the race. Ice baths are highly recommended for runners who've just completed a half marathon. Why? Because the ice can help decrease the inflammation in your legs and speed the rate of healing.

5. Sleep

Try to make sure you can get a full night of sleep after completing your race. It is essential during your post-marathon recovery plan as your body repairs itself primarily during the REM cycle of sleep, the first 70 to 90 minutes after you drift off.

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