What is the best recovery strategy after running a marathon?
Whether you ran 26.2 miles or even logged your miles virtually over the past year, completing a marathon is an accomplishment to feel proud of.
But when the hard work is over, there is still one important step left: recovery.
Here are a few tips to help you get back to where you want to be.
Movement is key
After you finish the marathon its important to keep moving.
Although the first instinct may be to drop to your knees and thank be thankful you’ve finished, it's not the best way to go about marathon recovery.
Think about it: You’ve asked your body to run 26.2 miles.
It’s still in running mode when you finish and needs to transition back to normal life.
By walking, your heart rate drops, your circulation diverts back to its resting state and starts to flush the lactic acid from your muscles.
Walk at least 10 to 15 minutes—back to your car, hotel, or taxi to cool down.
Eat a small snack within the first 30 to 60 minutes of finishing the race.
Save the big meal for later in the day when your appetite returns, and you can enjoy the meal.
Immediately after the race, its important to eat about 200 to 300 of easily-digestible calories. Which can be sourced from carbohydrates and protein.
This will help to maintain blood sugar levels, replenish muscle glycogen, and start the repair of muscle tissue.
If possible, soak in a cold water or if you're brave an ice bath for 5 to 10 minutes. Compression tights may be something to consider wearing.
Both can aid in decreasing inflammation in your legs and speed the rate of healing.
Get a leg up
Take 5 to 10 minutes to do the yoga pose, “Legs Up on the Wall,” or Viparita Karani.
It reverses circulation to refresh your legs and stretches the lower body muscles.
Wait at least two to six hours after the race to stretch and foam roll and at least 24 hours for a massage.
This allows your muscles time to replenish fluids and energy lost and recover from the demands of the race.
Take some time out
One of the most common mistakes runners make is running too soon after a marathon.
Your body has been through a tough season of training and 26.2 miles on the road.
The best way to recover is not to do more damage by going out for a run the next day.
Take your time to get back to running.
Here's a four- week plan I would use:
Week 1: Low-impact exercises, rest, and test the waters. Invest the first week in short, light effort, low-impact activites. This will boost circulation, warm your muscles, and aid in healing.
Week 2: Short and easy runs. If things still hurt, keep up with the low-impact activites. If you feel good, start back to your normal running frequency in week two, but keep the effort easy and the distance shorter (30 to 60 minutes).
Week 3: Run longer and a little faster. If things are still going well and your body feels good, ease back into distance and intensity in week three.
Week 4: Return to regular volume or training. Now that you’ve slowly got your body back into a regular running routine, you can return to your pre-marathon schedule if you feel good. If you’re running multiple races in one season it is vital to invest in optimal recovery time.
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