Whether you’ve just completed the London Marathon or another epic 24.2-mile race – well done. What an achievement, we applaud you. Having spent months carefully building up your running distance and eating the right foods to fuel your body it is easy to forget about how you should appropriately recover from running a marathon. Unfortunately, this is true of many runners but recovery after a gruelling marathon is just as important as the training itself and is often the most undervalued part.
Part of the problem is that once you’ve crossed the finish line, the last thing most participants want to think about is how they can reset their body in a bid to get back to their training. Without a thorough recovery routine most runners will soon realise that they face a whole host of issues, which will impair their training efforts in the future.
Here are a few top tips to ensure your post-marathon recovery goes smoothly so you can get back to pounding the pavements in no time.
1. Have a shower
After the marathon you might be tempted to collapse on the sofa but one of the first things you should do is hit the shower as soon after finishing the race as possible. One of the best things to aid muscle recovery is a contrast shower, alternating between hot and cold water on your legs. The change in water temperature causes the blood vessels to switch between getting bigger and smaller which helps to rush plenty of oxygen-rich blood to your tired legs. This flow of blood helps to repair the damage and micro-tears in the leg muscles which occur when running.
2. Load up on protein and get moving
After ploughing your way through plenty of carbs before the marathon, now is the time to up your protein intake. Having a protein-rich meal is a great way to further aid muscle recovery. After a good night’s sleep it is time to get moving. Yes, really! Even if you can’t face a run, getting out for a brisk walk or a steady jog is just what your body needs. Getting the blood flowing to your legs will continue to help with the healing process even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing, it will be worth it in the long-run (excuse the pun!)
A post-marathon walk or jog is also an opportunity to access if you have any injuries that might need special attention.
3. Get active
Traditionally, post-marathon recovery advice was simply to rest and have a certain number of days off before pounding the pavements (or treadmill) again. However, research has found that the best way to aid recovery is to get active and get the blood flowing. Be aware, you aren’t only restricted to running; swimming is a great low-impact training method which is just as effective, as is cycling. This part of your marathon journey isn’t about pushing yourself but simply getting the oxygen flowing around your body.
4. Build strength
Now is the time to focus on some necessary ancillary work while you scale back your running. Focusing on building strength and mobility in the days following a marathon is beneficial to avoid injury once (or if) you resume training. Before and after any exercise don’t skip the all-important warm up and warm down exercises, your body needs these more than ever and should remain an important aspect of your training once you get out running again. This ensures you remain injury free.
5. Take your time
Don’t worry about scaling back your training for however long it takes for your body to heal. It’s been through a lot so take your time. You should only consider resuming your usual training schedule when you feel able to do so. Remember, everybody recovers at different rates and one of the worst things you can do is push yourself too far, too quickly. If you are remaining active, you are providing your body with exactly what it needs. When you feel able to, try a short run and then wait at least a day before trying a slightly longer run. By doing so you can access your recovery and watch out for any weaknesses or injuries that might become apparent and require medical attention.
Running a marathon is a massive accomplishment and you should be really proud of yourself but you need to take the time before the race to plan your post-marathon training phase to ensure your next phase of serious running goes well. By investing the time in your recovery, you will not only minimise the risk of injury but will also improve as a runner, helping you to achieve your running goals. You never know, you could even beat your time when it comes to your next marathon.
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