Completing a Marathon or half? – what an experience! Who ever thought running tht distance could be exciting, fun and challenging all at the same time – but it is! The best feeling is that feeling of accomplishment knowing all those months of training and hard work have paid off. I would recommend it to anyone who can run 10km, to set themselves the challenge of training up to a marathon or half marathon. To all my friends and colleagues who did set themselves the challenge, congratulations!
The biggest question remains, what next? And invariably the answer is ‘another marathon’, so follow these recovery tips to ensure your pins are feeling stronger than ever so you can get back into training.
The first 24 hours
- Keep moving: As soon as you finish the race, cool down properly, 10min walk (or hobble). Don’t stretch if you are in too much agony or you might tear a muscle. If you can walk comfortably then you can stretch. If you can barely stand, let alone walk and you have to lie down, elevate your legs above your hips so that there is no blood pooling.
- Rehydrate: Warning! Drinking too much water (hyponatremia) can be just as dangerous as no enough. If you drink copious amounts of water during or after the race you can literally flush the essential salts out of your system. So when you re-hydrate after the race, use a sports drink such as Gatorade which has salts and sugars in it to replenish your system. If you weigh yourself before and after the race, drink enough fluid until your weight is back to normal, and your urine is clear.Â The three champagnes I had went down way too easily but I don’t think that really counts as fluid…unfortunately!
- Eat: Even if you don’t feel like eating, get something into your system. If it’s salty (like chips) even better! Every cell in your body will be depleted so the more essential vitamins, minerals, protein and sugars you can get into you, the faster your recovery. Eat whatever you feel like I say!
- Ice, not heat: What!?! I hear you say, no bath? Not at first. Because these muscles are damaged, and swelling will occur, the best thing you can do for your muscles is ten minutes in an ice bath. If the idea of that is worse than running the actual marathon, then try icing the sorest bits for ten minutes at a time. This will reduce swelling and aid recovery. Wait 12 hours before you have a hot bath, and then have as many as you like!
The next 7 days
- Take the week off training: Definitely no running, and if you absolutely have to do something, keep it gentle and no more than 70% of normal effort. No overloading the system just yet, we’re in recovery mode.
- Stretch: Put every joint in your body through its range of motion, paying particular attention to your calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, hips, lower back, shoulders and neck. If you are feeling good, join in a yoga or body balance class.
- Get a massage: I would suggest waiting about 24hours or until you can at least walk down stairs properly before getting a massage. It should feel heavenly and make a big difference to your recovery.
- Sleep: Your body does all it’s repairing when you are asleep so the more of that you do, the faster you recover.
- Eat lots of protein and nutrient dense foods: Your body will be repairing and building lots of tissue, so feed it the building blocks it needs. I would suggest 1.5-2grams of protein for every kilo you weigh. If it’s got eyeballs, eat it! Also eat iron rich foods such as red meat and spinach as your iron stores may be depleted which makes you feel tired.
- Gloat! Tell as many people as possible about your triumph, what’s the fun in being humble anyway!
The next Month
- Run no more than 4 days per week, start with 15 – 40min runs
- No hard runs for a month
- No hard strength training (so your legs get sore)
- If you have an easy month, you will be able to build your speed and distance up much faster after that.
- Focus on flexibility for that month
- A massage per week for four weeks will iron out any deep knots and aid muscle recovery
You may feel like doing another marathon pretty soon, but I would suggest no more than 3 per year. So sit down with your diary, plan your races, slot in some sprint training to get you running faster and work out your training diary for the next 6 months. After a month of easy training, you will be rearing to get back into it.