Today we want to share 7 things you need for your post-marathon recovery. A great runner is not only excellent during the competition. One should also excel in taking care of himself after crossing the finish line. After all, an athlete who’s sore all over cannot train hard for the next race. So, make sure to incorporate these essentials in your post-marathon recovery plan to recuperate faster and avoid injury.
1. Constant Movement
As soon as you finish the race and stop running, lactic acid is ready to set in and stiffen your legs. The best thing to do is to keep moving. Go for a light 10-minute walk or jog. Some would use this time to change out of their wet clothes or slip into comfortable footwear. This cool down phase gives your body time to redistribute blood flow, lower the heart rate and reduce inflammation.
2. Compression Gear
Tights or snug calf sleeves put surface pressure on specific body parts to encourage blood circulation and stabilize muscles. It’s advisable to wear one of these a few hours post-marathon, though it can be challenging with your spaghetti legs and all. Some also suggest wearing compression pants to sleep. However, if you’re not a fan of tights, you can put your legs up the wall instead. This alternative helps reduce swelling so you won’t feel as sore. Others also find ice baths helpful in soothing muscle inflammation.
3. Healthy Meal and Water
After all that intense running, your stomach feels uneasy, and food is probably the last thing you want to have. That’s alright. Munch whatever you can for now, like a protein bar or banana, then enjoy a proper meal later. Just make sure not to skip fluids. Drink water after finishing the race, and keep sipping throughout the day. To get both electrolytes and nutrients in one go, sports drink, chocolate milk, tart cherry juice, and coconut water are good options.
4. Good Night’s Sleep
Your body is still on adrenaline high after a race, making sleep difficult. It’s hard to rest your mind when your twitching muscles keep bothering you. That’s normal, but quality sleep is vital for your post-marathon recovery. Sufficient sleep is necessary for repairing muscles, recharging and reducing stress. So, read a book or take a warm bath. Try not to eat near your bedtime and avoid alcohol. Also, when you can, go home after a marathon and follow your usual bedtime routine. There’s nothing more relaxing than being in your room with your soft, welcoming bed.
5. Post-Race Massage
A massage is a runner’s best friend. Just make sure to wait at least 1 to 2 days before getting your treatment. This recovery time should be enough to relax your sore muscles a bit before adding pressure from the massage. And while you can always rely on spa services, some runners make use of self-massage tools like a foam roll or massage gun for relief.
A massage gun is like a handheld mini-jackhammer for the muscles that provide vibration therapy in rapid pressure bursts. Provided that you know how to use it properly, a massage gun is your quick-fix to loosen tight muscles and stimulate blood flow. This tool can also help reduce pain caused by delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. Whichever method you choose, gentle massages are 100% essential in speeding up your post-marathon recovery. More importantly, it ensures that you can safely return to training in no time.
6. Foot Treatment
Aside from your muscles, your feet also need some pampering. As a rule of thumb, give them at least two weeks of sufficient rest. The last thing you want to do is to start running a few days post-marathon. Give your feet a break and address blisters if there are any. Use plasters when you have to, and handle blisters hygienically to avoid infection. Also, wear comfortable footwear after the race.
7. Gradual Training Plan
You will still feel a bit tired and sore three days after your race. So, at this point, light jogs or runs for 30 minutes a day for the entire week will do. A daily half-hour of stretching exercises should also be part of your routine. Your biggest focus should be on your legs, and starting with a butterfly stretch would be smart. It will decrease the tension in your hips and increase their flexibility. On the second week, you can extend your workout to 1 hour daily. But, stick to stretching and low-impact exercises.
Soreness and fatigue should be gone on the third week, allowing you to increase your running output. By this time, you’ll be more comfortable doing a 90-minute workout. If you feel recovered on day 14, a swimming-based routine is an ideal alternative for running. It’s a low-impact exercise with excellent cardio benefits. Doing a few laps is helpful for your muscles, too.
Your health is just as important as any race. Having a post-marathon recovery plan is the best way to reward yourself and celebrate every win!