Running Doc’s tips for post-marathon recovery

Dear Running Doc:

I am 29 years old and run three marathons a year. After I run a marathon my muscles hurt for a week. I see recovery drinks in the store but never know which one to buy. After each race, I drink a sports drink, get a massage and then go home and take a hot shower. Can you give me some tips so I don’t hurt so much?

Jodi N., Chicago

Thanks for the question, Jodi. I bet many people are in the same boat after marathons, so let’s go through some recovery tips.

Post-event muscle soreness is due to small micro tears of soft tissue after a long run. Follow these tips to speed healing and reduce inflammation at the tear site.

1. Do not take a hot shower. Inflammation is like butter boiling in a pan. If you turn the heat up it spatters. Try to take a bath or shower in as cool water as you can handle. This will reduce inflammation.

2. Drinking a recovery drink is a good idea. You want to replenish sugar as well as provide protein. Protein breaks down to amino acids which are the building blocks to repair those micro tears. Although the artificial ones you see in the stores are good, the best recovery drink is good old-fashioned CHOCOLATE MILK. It provides protein in the milk and sugar in the chocolate!

3. Try to refrain from a post-event massage until three hours after you finish. A by-product of exercise is lactic acid. If you have a massage too early it moves the acid around and causes more micro tears. By three hours the body naturally buffers the acid to a neutral ph. It is then that getting a massage is useful in moving these buffered waste products through your lymphatics and out of your system.

Jodi, I hope if you follow these recommendations your post-event muscle soreness will drastically decrease. If you have any further questions please write again.

Enjoy the Ride!

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Lewis G. Maharam, MD, FACSM is one of the world’s most extensively credentialed and well-known sports health experts. Better known as Running Doc™, Maharam is author of Running Doc’s Guide to Healthy Running and past medical director of the NYC Marathon and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series. He is Medical Director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. He is also past president of the New York Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine. Learn more at

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