27 before 27: Why marathon recovery can help you meet your goals

One day about three years ago, I was on a 20-mile training run when I ripped off my wig mid-run and hung it up when I got home. I haven’t looked back since. And that defining moment was because of running.

I have an autoimmune condition called alopecia that caused me to lose all of my hair at age two and left me completely bald. I never truly felt like me under the wig, but I didn’t know how to break free from it.

Taking up running has taught me strength, determination, grit and self-confidence I never knew I had. It was just over six years ago that I toed the line at my very first marathon in my college town of Duluth, Minnesota (Grandma’s Marathon) with thousands of other runners all looking to conquer the highly respected task of being called a marathoner. I didn’t know at the time, but this race would change my life in more incredible ways than I could have ever imagined.

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I have run 31 marathons since that one, but it was never about the number of races (even though I did aim for 27 before age 27 as a goal). If I hadn’t run my first marathon, I don’t think I would be where I am or who I am today. I learned so much. Not only did I learn about myself during my running career but also about the sport, preparation and post-race recovery that have helped me drastically improve.

Here are the key components I focus on for post-marathon recovery so I can feel ready to take on my next marathon, which is usually only a short time away.

  1. Walk it out

After crossing the finish line, no matter how exhausted I feel, I walk around and let my heart rate come down. It helps me prevent cramping from just immediately sitting down even though I want to.

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

The amount of sweating I do during a race is crazy, especially living in the South and dealing with the humidity. It makes a big difference during the race to be hydrated leading up to and during race day, but afterwards, it’s just as important to put the fluids and electrolytes back into my body that I lost during the race. I drink water and Gatorade all day afterward and for days afterwards as well.

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  1. Eat some protein

After a race, I always make sure I eat a substantial amount of protein to help build up my muscles after a race. I am a huge fan of Quest Bars, peanut butter and nuts, and they’re easy to pack in your gear check bag to make sure I have some of my favorite foods after a race.

  1. Don’t skip stretching

Stretching is so important. After my first few races, I never thought about stretching and can still remember how sore I was, how difficult it was to get up and down stairs and how hard it was to move around. After my heart rate has come down, I always make sure to stretch thoroughly, especially my hamstrings, which are always the most sore for me.

My favorite and also most painful tool is the foam roller. I use it everyday to help stretch and work out any tightness I have for after marathon care. I even have a smaller one that fits into my suitcase to use at hotels or on the road before and especially after races.

  1.  Shake it out

The day after the marathon, I go on an easy four-mile recovery run to stretch the legs, stay loose and keep the blood flowing. This is never a fast run for me, but it does prevent me from becoming too sore or stiff.

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  1. Give yourself a break

I always take a full seven days off from serious, hard running after a marathon. I use this week to rest, and for recovery, I may add in a few yoga classes or maybe a spin class but definitely not any running. I’ve found after this marathon recovery time that I feel rested and have the itch to start running again.

  1. Set a new goal

Have another race on the calendar to look forward to and start training for. I love the feeling of seeing a countdown on my phone for my next race. It helps me to stay motivated and excited to get back into training.

It definitely took me quite a few races to figure out how to recover after a marathon, but now, I have it down. I have learned that having a marathon recovery plan and focusing on rest, hydration, stretching and food intake does make a big difference and can really affect how quickly I can bounce back after a race.

Shop Lindsay’s go-to marathon shoe, the Clifton 5.

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Hard work is paying off

Photo: Paola Franqui Photo: Paola Franqui

“The hard work I’ve put in since having kids feels like it’s finally paying off. This has been one of the best buildups of my career. My training has been consistent with very few hiccups and I feel fortunate that I have both health and fitness on my side. I would really like to display all the hard work I put in and the fitness level I’m at. It’s a deep field with a lot of great women. I’m hoping to have a strong race and gun it down to the finish line the last 10K.”- HOKA Athlete Stephanie Bruce who just placed 10th at the TCS New York City Marathon

Stephanie’s favorite shoe is the Clifton.

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Life isn’t fair, but running is

15350544_1365954903446994_8994658162350720009_n“I run because it’s the most ‘fair’ thing in my life. I can remember growing up and being a whiney child and my mother constantly telling me, ‘Life isn’t fair kid.’ As I’ve grown up, this mantra has continued to ring true. I’ve had frustrating jobs or relationships where I question if I’m getting back what I put in. I’ve I always felt like I’ve gotten back everything and more that I put into running. Sometimes I don’t see it from race to race, but if I step back and think about it, the effects running has on my life are pretty much everywhere.”- HOKA Fan Jon Smith

Running on pure adrenaline

15036555_1348521141857037_5873121285580929958_n“I recently started an accelerated nurse practitioner program, so my days are often filled to the brim with some combination of lectures, labs, clinicals, and lots of studying (enthralling, right?). I went through a period after college when running was no longer fun; it was a chore and I felt ‘burnt out.’ I have enjoyed the process of falling in love with the sport all over again; running has become my sanctuary away from school and a much needed outlet. The most challenging part of training for the NYC Marathon was fitting in the necessary mileage with my packed schedule. There were days when I would be in the hospital for 12+ hour shifts. Race day made it worth it. The crowd in NYC was unreal and unlike anything I have previously experienced. It was so much fun to be able to feed off of their energy and run on pure adrenaline.” – HOKA Fan Sam Roecker