With international marathons taking place throughout the year, a serious runner's diary is always full, but whether you're in the pro camp or this Sunday's London Marathon is your first real endurance test, remember that your recovery period is just a crucial as all the grueling training and preparation you put in for the big day, too.
Neglect your recovery and you’ll not only increase your risk of injury but also limit your running potential in the long term.
Notoriously tough on the body, muscles, hormones, tendons, and even cells, almost every physiological system is pushed to the max during a marathon race, resulting in muscle soreness and fatigue that can last for a fair few weeks. Not to mention a severely compromised immune system and damage to blood cells as the body fights to get back to its former health.
Let the experts at RunnersConnect.net help get you back on your feet as quickly as possible with this three-week rehab plan, that concentrates on both exercise and nutrition so you're ready for optimum performance further down the road...
The Plan of Action
1. After you cross the finish line, ensure you put on something to keep you warm, be it a Mylar foil blanket or breathable sports jacket (you're still going to be sweating). You’ll probably feel cold very quickly, and while it won’t help you recover, getting warm will sure make you feel a lot better.
2. Try to find something to eat. Bananas, energy bars, sports drinks, fruit, and bagels are all good options. Many marathoners can’t eat right after finishing, but you should enlist your friends and family to have snacks at the ready for when you are hungry.
3. When you get home consider an ice bath. Fill the tub with ice and cold water and submerge your lower body for 15 minutes. You don’t need the water too cold (12C is optimal) but anything colder than 18C will do. After your ice bath, take a nap or walk around to try and loosen the legs. At this point, you’ve done all you can do for the day. Relax and relish in your accomplishment.
Cross Training: none
Recovery Tips and Tricks:
- Soak in a hot tub for 10-15 minutes and stretch well afterwards.
- Eat lots of fruit, carbohydrates, and protein. The carbs and protein will help repair the muscle damage while the fruit will give you a boost of vitamin C and antioxidants to help combat free radical damage and boost your immune system.
- A light massage will help loosen your muscles. Don’t book a deep tissue massage yet... Just a gentle massage or a light rolling with an at-home massage stick.
Running: One day, 2-4 miles, very easy
Cross Training: Optional – two days, 30-40 minutes easy effort. The focus is on promoting blood flow to the legs, not building fitness.
Recovery Tips and Tricks:
- Continue eating a healthy diet.
- Now is the time you can get a deep tissue massage if you have areas that are really bothering you or that are injured.
- Contrast bath your lower body. To contrast bath, take large trash cans and fill one with hot water (37-38C) and the other with ice water (cold enough so some ice still doesn't melt) and put your whole lower body into the cold. Hold for 5 minutes and then switch to the hot for 5 minutes. Repeat two or three times, ending with cold. This helps rush blood in and out of the area, which facilitates healing.
- Take an Epsom salt bath. About an hour before bed, massage your legs and then soak in a warm bath with 3 cups of Epsom Salts and 1 cup of baking soda for 10-15 minutes. After the soak, stretch really well and relax. This will perk up your legs and also help you sleep.
After a week your body will be ready to get back into exercise, but ease yourself in.
Running: Three or four days, 4-6 miles, very easy.
Cross Training: Optional – three sessions in total. One easy session and two medium effort sessions for 30-45 minutes.
Running: Begin to slowly build back into full training. Try four or five runs of 4-8 miles with 4 x 20 second strides after each run.
Cross Training: 1 easy session, 1 medium session, and 1 hard session of 40-50 minutes.
Try not to schedule any races until six weeks after your marathon. Your results won’t be as good as they might be if you just wait a few weeks, let your body recover and train a little first. Patience is a virtue, but it will pay off in the end.