This article was published on May 5th, 2014
Training for a marathon is a daunting task. Not only can it take many months of training, dedication, and a proper diet, but post marathon recovery is the last and final stage of your marathon journey.
Similar to the training schedule of stress and rest, running the marathon puts extreme stress on the body. Within minutes of crossing the finish line, the body begins the intense recovery process, which could last days, or weeks, depending on your conditioning.
After completing a marathon it is imperative to allow the body to rest and recuperate; the average recreational runner could need up to four weeks to recover. In addition, physical recovery there is also a psychological component to consider, since marathons can be excruciating affairs mentally.
In order to ensure quality recovery after a marathon, then the following tips should be considered:
- After finishing the marathon, the first thing to be done is to hydrate. The body burns on average around 1 cup of water during 15 minutes of strenuous exercises; sports drinks contain electrolytes, which will help the body absorb and retain water.
- Chocolate milk is the ideal post-marathon recovery drink. It contains the perfect mix of 75% carbohydrates and 25% protein. It should be consumed within 20 minutes of crossing the finish line; the most imperative time when the body needs to be refueled because the body has already started the recovery process.
- Replenishing the body with vital nutrients within the first 30-60 minutes after running a marathon is necessary. In order to rebuild muscles, lean proteins should be consumed, while carbohydrates are needed to replace all the energy expended during the run; finally to replenish sugars and vitamins fruit such as blueberries and bananas are ideal. A perfect nutritious post-marathon combination is a bagel, a banana accompanied with chocolate milk.
- Other effective method for speeding up recovery time is use Epsom salt baths and also receive a massage, which helps speed up the recovery process significantly. After competing, it is also crucial rest one’s legs, they should also be elevated to remove lactic acid at a more rapid rate. For example, lay on the floor beside the wall, and place your feet on the wall, above your head to let the lactic acid flow out faster.
- A common mistake that some runners make is to not change out of their running clothes quick enough. Being damp and cold can easily lead to a cold, therefore it is important to have spare clothes ready that are warm and dry.
- Stretching after a marathon is crucial since the entire body has underwent immense stress and tension; by stretching it is possible to avoid muscle cramps, pain, while also increasing flexibility.
- After completing a marathon, the most effective time-frame to receive a massage is 48-72 hours. The most ideal massage method is the Swedish style since the long and sweeping strokes improve circulation back to the heart. On the other hand, deep tissue massages are to be avoided as well as long, static stretches because the muscles are in a weakened state. For long distance running, slow and dynamic stretches are recommended.
After running a marathon, a 16 km run every other week is an efficient way to help condition the body in order to sustain one’s endurance. Following such a regime can help shorten the training for the next marathon to 12 weeks, while faster half-marathons can be prepared for in six weeks.