Massage Right After Marathon?

You did it!

You crossed the finish line!

Whether it’s your first attempt at running 26.2 or you’re a seasoned marathon veteran, going the distance and breaking the tape under the clock is a feeling like no other.

As soon as you’ve stopped running, there are several things to do right away, both to tend to your body as well as to celebrate!

Cooling down, hydrating and gentle stretching are in order and assuming you’re not in need of medical attention, there’s your finisher’s medal to collect, your photo to have taken and that nifty silver blanket to wrap around you if you don’t have immediate access to your race morning clothing bag.

Then there are the questions of what, if anything, to eat in the athlete’s ‘food’ area (this is a sore spot for me, and anyone else who happens to prefer not to eat most, if not all, of what is essentially junk offered at most finish lines!) as well as whether or not to head into the post-race massage tent.

Your head may say yes, but your quads may disagree.

Is there a benefit to getting tended to immediately after racing, or it is better to way a day or two?

It depends.

Unless it’s a very light massage, skip it.

Anything more than a gentle, superficial rubdown could actually increase the inflammation and muscle tissue breakdown you’ve incurred through the race and from which you now must recover. The best time for a proper sports massage is 24 to 48 hours after the race[1].

In addition, sometimes it can be hit or miss with who ends up working on you. The massage therapists on staff at a race don’t know your body because you’ve not likely ever met them before, making it more difficult for them to distinguish where their touch is needed since they don’t know your norm.

Your best bet is to take the immediate post race recovery into your own hands by keeping on top of fluid replacement, maintaining circulation by walking or even better, getting in the water and also taking a nice long soak in an Epsom salt bath.

Last but certainly not least, eating well to recover is a crucial part of doing so in a timely manner and this does not mean approaching your diet with the mentality that you just ran a marathon so anything is fair game.

Yes, you’ve just expended upwards of thousands of calories, depending on how fast you ran as well as how long you were out there, but focusing on just getting the calories in, regardless of their source can delay proper recovery.

Your body is already a bit inflamed from the race, so piling on the inflammatory foods like those high in refined sugar, and low in nutrient density would be the epitome of a disservice to the very body that just served you so well!

What should you eat right after a marathon, then?

It depends on your fueling strategy.

For an athlete who hasn’t yet begun his or her fat adaptation transition, adhering to the old adage of the carb window with the 4:1 carb:pro ratio would make sense.

That’s the very formula I also followed for years, prior to becoming dependent on fat as my fuel.

Some good examples include a ripe banana blended with coconut water and a poached egg or two, or some yam pureed with sliced lean turkey, or one of my smoothies.

On the other hand, if you’re already a fat-adapted athlete, what you’re going to be on the lookout to eat right after a race is quite different as it may surprise you:


This is going to read as far fetched and absolutely crazy for anyone still in the throes of carb dependence, but I can vouch first hand from personal experience for what the studies on fat adaptation[2] are showing and tell you that it’s not uncommon at all to finish a hard training run (or ride or swim or race!) which was fueled on fat and not require food for hours after the job is done.

Park that for now, but stay tuned for more on that over the coming weeks.

To recap today’s blog topic, then, the takeaway is this: skip the immediate post race massage, self recover and then head to your personal masseuse at least one, if not two days later.

And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!


[1] After the Race.” After the Race. Road Runner Sports, n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2015

[2] Volek, Jeff, and Stephen D. Phinney. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance: A Revolutionary Program to Extend Your Physical and Mental Performance Envelope. Lexington, KY: Beyond Obesity, 2012. Print