Do you plan out your marathon recovery?
It’s the week after your marathon and you want to bounce back as quickly as possible. Why? So that you can move on to your next big race! Alright, maybe not but most runners make their overall general health a high priority. You want to look and feel your best as quickly as possible. And while your post-marathon limp might be a sign of a well fought battle, you don’t want to keep it forever, right?
The best way to recover after a marathon or long run is to begin to focus on your nutrition. (Yes, as always!) But what does that look like? What should you be eating to bring your body back to a good normal?
While inflammation can be a good thing as it can protect you from injury and help your body make stronger adaptations, we do want to reduce the inflammation that is occurring throughout our body so that we don't end up living in a state of chronic inflammation.
Poor recovery can definitely lead to a high risk of developing infections and drastically reduce your performance during your next workout or race.
3. Try to avoid foods that promote inflammation such as high sugar foods, highly processed foods, and most red meats. Give yourself that post-marathon treat meal but then really aim to fight inflammation through your foods the rest of the week.
4. You want to build back carbohydrate reserves but as always do it by eating complex carbohydrates such as oats, whole wheat breads, brown rice and avoid eating the white carbohydrates such as white rice and white breads that will spike your glucose levels and can increase inflammation.
5. Take recovery supplements. Vitamin C plays a critical role in your marathon recovery during this time as your immune system is in a compromised state. Other supplements to include would be B12 Vitamin to boost your energy. (See this article for the best supplements to take as a runner!)
6. Schedule time to just relax during little pockets of your day. Whether it be taking a cat nap, listening to music, reading a book, or journaling, doing stress-reducing activities will help to reduce inflammation as well and promote physical recovery. Think of yourself as being on vacation. No hard workouts, no strict routines, enjoy the break and live in the moment. You will be back on the roads in no time at all!
7. Do at least two of the RICE principles. (RICE = Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) Definitely do the resting! But choose another marathon recovery technique as well.
Get in that cold water bath if you really want to get your recovery going. It improves your circulation, it will reduce the amount of soreness that you feel and the amount of damage suffered by your muscles, all while giving you the shock of your life. Alright, I shouldn’t be so cold about it. The pros definitely outweigh the cons and as this study states it is a much more effective recovery method for marathoners versus cryotherapy.
Wear your compression leggings for at least 48 -72 hours post race.
An easy way to elevate your legs and stretch at the same time is to put your feet up a wall, scoot your bum as close as you can towards the wall and just chill for 5-10 minutes.
8. Book a massage. A sports massage (immediately or during the week after) is a great way to really target your marathon recovery process. A lot of times you might not even notice how much your body is internally still trying to recover until you are getting the massage. Sports massages and deep tissue massages are the best post marathon and can give you a lot of insight into how your body is recovering.
9. Start enjoying low impact exercise and activities after 7 days. You should still think of yourself as in recovery mode. However you are probably feeling the itch to get moving again. Start off slow. Enjoy the process of taking a little bit easier. Walking is one of the best post marathon activities as it not only gets your blood flowing but it also helps encourage your tired sore muscles to move and loosen up.
10. Stretch every day. Where are you the tightest at? Where did you feel it the most during the marathon and after the marathon? Give those areas a lot of extra love and they will in turn become stronger for the next bout! Set an alarm in your phone to go off every day the week after a marathon to remind you to do even 10 minutes of stretching. Maybe this is your time to also relax, close your eyes, listen to music or an audiobook or just enjoy the silence.
If you will be training for another race soon, then it is especially important to take time to heal and recover through foods and light exercise. You will find that your performance capability will be enhanced during that next training period. You will reduce your risk of burnout, avoid injury and be ready to really push yourself to that next level!