Take some down time. Let your body rest and repair. How does one do this?
•Time to take up something you were putting off during training. Reading a good book? More time with family or friends? A House project or maybe more time walking your dog or doing much needed yard work. You get my point! Extra Time is your best friend right now!
•Celebrate all that you accomplished. Take time to journal it. Explore your thoughts and emotions. Discover if the journey changed you in some way. Print pictures, hang your medal, make a scrapbook.
•Remind Yourself that if you don't recovery properly you will only tarnish your ability to grow stronger as a runner. That if you run too much too soon or too hard you run the risk for great injury.
If there was ever a time when your body was going to break down it was during that last long run and perhaps it did break a little and anything too much too soon could make that potential injury very real. I honor and value the enthusiasm behind ones choices to resume normal running or to get training again but give yourself some time.
How Much time to Recover Fully? This is difficult to give you straight answer but I'll try my best.
Novice & New Half Marathoners & Marathoners give yourself at least 3-4 days before you try to run out the stiffness in your legs. This will have given your body time to properly react with Delayed onset muscle soreness and for that swelling of the tissues to come back down. Your First run back will probably ache and perhaps hurt. As long as you don't experience pain that feels like you are being stabbed or if it throbs and makes you physically groan then you are just likely tight and still sore. Pain of worry would be inflammation, hurts to touch (not to rub or deep massage- that's normal right now) If you experience pain while standing or hopping. This indicates potential injury and best case is to rest a few more days with ice and ibuprofen (if you are allowed) and then try again in 3 days.
There are "un set" running standard rules that state one day for every mile and I say "hogwash" :) If I can run then I'm going to run! LOL- I often wonder if a Runner really made up that unspoken rule?
If you are very conditioned, race often then you could very well do recovery miles the same day as the Marathon or half marathon and or the next day.
Key is to Listen to Your Body!
Ice Bath- Immediately after your run if you can but ultimately if you dare it can never hurt you only help! It brings down the inflammation.
Hydration- time to concentrate on restoring all the fluids you lost during the Marathon.
Foam Roll- Again much like Running, wait but definitely make sure you do it and doing around the same time as DOMS is best to help move the fluid around.
Stretch- WARM though please if that means walk and get blood flow into the quads/calves then Great- do it cold and you risk injury.
Range of Motion this is simply put. You move your legs in each direction that is natural. Knee up toward chest from standing position and then back down. Stand with leg down and with straight leg extend upward and backward in sweeping motion. Again standing sweep from side to side. Be Gentle, don't pull.
Go for a Walk
Keep moving- not moving makes it all worse. Keep yourself moving around!
Get in the Pool and Swim/Stretch
Get Some Extra Sleep
All these things will only aid in restoring a depressed immune system from endurance training.
NutritionRestore full hydration
Restore your Electrolytes
Eat nutrient rich foods with plenty of fiber
Eat lots of Anti-oxidants. They aid in cell repair. I can tell you this and keep it simple aim for as much fruit/veggies as you can! Yes I love Simple :)
Immediately following a Marathon eat a complex carbohydrate for Glycogen Restore and some quick sugars to bring back up your energy and blood sugars.
Focus on lots of protein for muscle repair
Make New ADVENTURES!
Lastly I want you to start planning New Goals. The Greatest Stifle for many New Runners is they lack motivation and feel depleted and burned out after Endurance Races. It can and does happen. Best thing to combat that is to quickly create new targets for yourself. Make a run for charity, take up a new time goal, go into triathlons, Try out a new Fun race you been wanting to do. There are ways to keep you going you just got to make a plan and execute much like you are doing now as you prepare to run your next Half or Full Marathon!
When you do Start Running back up I want you to be careful of 3 things
Downhill, Distance & Intensity. - Keep your Running Breaks on, don't over do yourself and risk injury. Reduce your down hill running, cut your distance back and don't run so intense for "about" two weeks.
What you risk beyond injury my friends is a shutdown and overload of your immune system, too much body inflammation and your body begins to feel tired, sluggish and you risk injury to blood vessel's and increase your risk for heart disease. Fact! Don't let me scare you, let me inform you!