For those of us to be crazy enough to run marathons, recovering from the race can be just as tough as the race itself. But it doesn’t need to be. While most of us put our emphasis on training, marathon recovery is just as important. So while you’re enjoying the post race bliss, now is the time you need to focus on your marathon recovery.
1. Keep walking
You’ve just run 26.2 miles (Your Garmin will say 27 miles just to piss you off…). The volunteers have given you a medal, you’re surrounded by an army of the walking dead. Your first instinct is to sit down and relax. DON’T!! Keep walking and help your body recover from running 26.2 miles. This will help your heart rate return to it’s resting rate gradually and help the lactic to be flushed out of your muscles. Keep walking for at least 15 minutes.
Later, when you’ve returned home, keep shuffling through the house and keep moving, this will keep you limber and help your recover no end for the next few days.
You have just sweat out a whole bunch of natural salts and minerals out of your body, as well as water. You will need to rehydrate as soon as you can post marathon, but not too much!! If you’re not yet completely sick of sports drinks, have one! There will be loads of them around the finish line. Your stomach will be unsettled after the race, so drink them slowly and allow your body to recover at a slow and steady rate.
3. Have a Protein rich drink or smoothie
The first 30 minutes after you cross the finish line is the prime time to help your muscles recover. Your muscles can absorb 50% more glycogen than at any other time during your marathon recovery.
Research has shown that a little protein post-exercise helps your muscles absorb more glycogen (at a ratio 4:1, that means four parts carbohydrates to one part protein). During this time, when your stomach may be still a little unsettled, a good choice would be a smoothie at room temperature because as it is easily digested, has some protein, and is rich of carbohydrates. Personally, I have Kinetica Recovery Protein but every one’s preference will change. If you’re not one for protein shakes, have a protein rich meal with chicken or eggs or both.
4. Stretch and Roll
After the race and your post race walk about, take some time to gently stretch your muscles. This is a very soft stretch to keep your muscles limber. Do not aggressively stretch like you would for a warm up. After a couple of hours, use a foam roller, rolling pin, or a plastic bottle wrapped in a towel to roll your muscles. This will hurt, a LOT, but will pay dividends the next day.
5. Have an alternate shower
Ok, so this might seem obvious. You’re caked in salty residue after running 26.2 miles, a shower is the first thing you’ll be looking forward to. The key to quicker marathon recovery is having an Alternate shower. The goal of this shower is to have one minute hot, and one minute cold on your legs. In the same way an ice bath helps your blood vessels to narrow and a steam room helps blood vessels to open up, alternating between both temperatures pumps oxygen rich blood to your aching legs. You should aim to repeat this at least 5 times.
6. The days after the marathon
You’ve just finished a marathon and feel invincible, and sore. You’ve trained for months for this day and you are in the routine of training. You will be already thinking of when you should go for a recovery run. Some runners rush back to training thinking they need to keep the miles up but runners who give their bodies a chance to recover properly actually get better times in subsequent races.
When you do get back running, keep your running mileage low. Marathon recovery is still your main priority. This is a good time to mix running with cross-training, like swimming, or short bike rides, so that you stay active while allowing your energy level to return to normal.
Below is a sample plan for your first week post marathon:
Day 1 – 3: No running, no training; Alternate shower; 10 minutes of stretching; carbohydrate and protein rich meals; take Vitamin C tablets to boost immune system
Day 4-7: 20 minutes easy running; Deep Muscle Massage; Muscle soak bath in Radox or Epsom salts; 10 minutes of stretching; continue eating healthily with carbohydrate and protein rich meals; keep taking Vitamin C tablets to boost immune system
If you have any questions or suggestions, comment below!! We’d love to hear from you.