When you plan on running a marathon, your mind will naturally wander to the race preparations. You will work on your running distance and speed, ensuring that you are going to reach the time goal that you have in mind. You will also plan for what you need to be eating, what shoes you’ll wear, and any other training factors along the way to help you perform during the marathon in the way that you had in mind.
But there is another aspect of running a marathon that you should also be thinking about: the recovery. You may have made it through the race, but pushing your body to the brink of exhaustion can undoubtedly take its toll on you, especially if you are not prepared in what you should be doing in order to recover from your run.
1. You are not going to recover overnight
The first thing that you need to anticipate is that you are not going to recover from your marathon overnight. On average, it takes people at least two or three weeks to recover from the intense strain that was placed on their body. A rule of thumb is no hard exercise a day for every mile that you raced, meaning you need to take off 26 days of exercise and just heal. If you try sooner, you are putting yourself at risk of a severe injury, which would force you to take even more time off from exercise. Know that it is going to take you awhile to get back into a regular running and workout routine following a marathon.
2. Recovery begins immediately
Your marathon recovery is not going to start the second you get home. It begins the second you cross the finish line. You cannot collapse and sit down when you have finished. This is the time to keep your body moving, to try and give it the best cool down routine that you possibly can. You will need to hydrate like crazy and start fueling your body with proper nutrition. This means good fruits and vegetables, yogurts, and anything else that is light on your stomach. No reason to give yourself a bellyache on top of the sore body that you are going to have.
3. Hop in the shower as soon as you can
Once you have left the race area, hydrated, and grabbed some kind of food, you need to get in the shower. You will need to take what is known as a contrast shower, where you alternate between using hot and cold water on your legs. This will force your veins to open and constrict, helping them to push the much-needed oxygen-rich blood into your legs. Your legs are what you are likely to feel the most right away since you were just on them for a few hours, and you will have undoubtedly suffered a series of micro-tears that will come back to haunt you when your body cools down.
4. Get some food
Once you have taken a shower, you should be ready for some real food. It is a good idea to go for foods that are both carbohydrate-rich and protein-rich, helping boost your energy and get you feeling as close to normal as you can. You may not be up for a big meal yet, so don’t push it. If you don’t feel like eating much, don’t. You could make yourself sick if you try to force it.
5. Time to sleep
After you have had something filling to eat, it is time to rest. You might be concerned that you are going to wake up stiff and have trouble moving, but really, your body needs some good downtime to help it recover. If it is still early in the day, try to take a nap for an hour or two. Then get up, grab some carbs, and move around a little bit. After eating as much as you can tolerate, you should aim for a full night’s sleep, all in the hope of recovering from your marathon as quickly as possible. Staying topped up with water will also help your muscles out.
6. What to do the next day
The concept of what you should do the day after a marathon is something that expert’s do not have a consensus on. Some recommend that you do no exercise of any kind in order to give your body a good chance to rest and heal, while others say the path to healing is through movement. Regardless of what the experts say, you need to know what your body feels like.
Usually if you are incredibly stiff and sore, a walk can help heat up the sore muscles and make it easier for you to move around. How much you walk really is up to you, but if you picked up an injury during the race, pushing too hard will only mean that you are going to hurt yourself.
7. Don’t start with running
After a few days of good rest, you might be ready to get moving again, but the key here is not to start exercising again with running. Those muscles really need a vacation. Giving them an actual chance for recovery will make exercise all the easier in the future. Instead of running, try out some other exercises, like yoga, cross training, or weightlifting.
8. Get a massage
A couple of days following the marathon, schedule yourself in for a massage. Even if you went for one of the finish line massages that they offer, your muscles were not all tense immediately after the race. A couple of days later, however, everything will have begun to tighten up. A massage can help push blood back into the sore muscles and help you heal a lot faster.
No matter what kind of marathon recovery you would like to aim for, the most important thing to remember is that you need to take care of your body. If it needs more time to rest, let it. Good luck.
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