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Finishing a marathon is a very fulfilling task. After all, it is the result of months of hard work, training, and preparation. However, many marathoners neglect the importance of recovery after their runs. This leads to complications such as injuries and aches that might hinder them in the future.
So how do we prevent this? The answer is simple. Having a good recovery regimen centered on resting, sleeping, proper diet, and light exercise is the way to go. It is a rule of thumb to give your weary body plenty of time to recover after running a marathon to avoid overwork.
This article will explain good recovery tips and their timing on your resting timeline.
Cause of Pains After a Marathon
Most muscle pains after a marathon are attributed to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it is a result of microscopic damage in muscle fibers due to heavy loads.
Furthermore, it is different from the soreness felt during the run. DOMS usually manifests 12 hours or more after the activity, with peak pains occurring after a day or two.
It commonly manifests in athletes involved in high endurance-based sports and people who engage in strength training. It is aggravated by walking on downhills, extended jogging, aerobic exercises, and even jumping.
Other effects of DOMS include swollen limbs, reduction in strength, and joint stiffness that comes with soreness.
Also read: The Pros And Cons Of Running A Marathon And Training For It
When Will You Fully Recover From a Marathon?
The answer to this question varies from case to case. However, it is known that you must wait for at least 7 to 10 days before running again to give your body some time to rest.
During such a time, one must not do their full running workout, but slowly build up from short to long runs. Remember that those weeks are crucial for your body to get back on track.
Most marathoners fully recover 4 to 6 weeks after their last competition. In a study, it was found that seasoned runners can even cut their recovery time down to 3 to 4 weeks.
During such time, they can get back on their full training workouts and runs. Any earlier than that is known to cause deteriorating effects on the body. By following specific tips that are proven by doctors and marathoners around the world, you can get back on your feet quicker.
What to do After Running a Marathon
How can you maximize your recovery to make sure that your rest time is fruitful and free of strain? Here are some tips that will help you revert to your top form.
|Time||What to do|
|Immediately after||Continue moving for 10-15 mins, replenish your fluids, and eat carbs and protein|
|1st week||Get plenty of sleep, do light exercises (swimming, stretching, etc), and get a sports massage|
|2-4 weeks||Do some light jogging and get the “feel” of running again.|
|4 weeks onward||Slowly build your training back up.|
#1 Continue Moving
After going through the finish line, you should never go straight so sitting or standing still. Instead, do your best to move around and walk a bit. While this might sound hard, it is a necessary step to make sure that your muscles stay warm and active for the next 10 to 15 minutes.
Doing so prevents risks of muscle cramps as well as improper blood flow. Furthermore, it serves as a safe way to “cool down” your system after very strenuous activity.
Also, your oxygen levels are regulated by the slow yet steady change in bodily movement, leading to a better feeling.
Adhering to light movement also reduces the shock that your weary muscles might experience after the event.
#2 Replenish Your Fluids
Yes, this might seem like a very basic tip to consider. However, many marathoners are quick to neglect the importance of hydration in their bodies, and this results in longer recovery times.
Even when we are not doing anything, the normal person required more than 2 liters of water every day. Much more for marathoners who lose fluids through excessive body heat and sweating.
As stated by Prof. Ronald Maughan in the Sports Science Exchange, hard exercises such as marathons can lead to a loss of 2-3 Liters of water per hour when performed in the heat. If this fluid is not restocked or replenished, then dehydration occurs, which results in nausea, lightheadedness, and delayed recovery.
Drinking an adequate amount of water is the way to go in such scenarios. Combining this with sodium, some potassium, and carb-rich food is better, which leads to our next step:
#3 Eat Some Carbs
Carbohydrates are a marathoner’s best friend. During a run, glycogen, or the body’s main energy source in the form of glucose, is greatly depleted—leading to high amounts of energy needs. Glycogen is also known as the fuel source of muscles, especially for endurance training.
Thus, it is recommended to eat around 1.2 grams of carbs per kg of body weight for the first few hours after finishing a marathon. This allows for the replacement of lost energy reserves of the body and leads to faster recovery.
Some recommended snacks include raisins, bread, and bananas. Many also agree that pizza is one of the best post-marathon food for your tired and hungry body due to its protein and carb components.
However, it is also beneficial to not rely on “quick” foods such as bars and fast food for carb consumption. Preparing a healthy dish or meal complete with carbs, veggies, and fruits is highly recommended.
Also read: Why Runners Eat Pasta Before A Marathon (Carb Loading Guide)
#4 Get Plenty of Sleep
While adrenaline may keep you up at night after a full day of a marathon event, you should never neglect the importance of proper sleep. Todd Buckingham, a physiologist, even states that it is the best tool to improve recovery and performance after strenuous activities.
As always, 7 hours of sleep is the recommended baseline to get the most out of your nighttime rest. Any less than that increases the risk of underperformance or even long-term sports-related injuries!
You can also rely on your siestas or afternoon naps (anywhere around 20 minutes is great). Doing so will ensure that your body has ample time to regenerate, and it even leads to healthier mental fortitude for your future activities.
Also read: To Rest Or Not To Rest? A Runner’s Guide to Rest Days
#5 Do Relaxed Exercises
Engaging in relaxed and light exercises is a good way to boost your road to betterment. This is part of the rehabilitation of the body to slowly get back into shape for future events. Many marathoners recommend a good swim 2-3 days after the run as it is a form of active recovery activity.
If you are unable to find a nearby pool or sea, then some light cycling also goes a long way. Such exercises will make sure that your muscles are not stagnant while still being relatively safe from injuries.
Never overexert to the point of muscle failure on your exercises after a marathon. This may cause serious damage to muscle fibers and tissues, delaying your recovery progress for long periods.
Remember to stretch and move around to promote good blood circulation!
#6 Get a Quality Sports Massage
Having a massage immediately after the run might be tempting. However, it has its fair share of negative effects. Thus, it is recommended to get a professional sports massage 1-2 days after the marathon, as it is also the time when DOMS pain levels are highest.
Doing this helps get rid of the lactic acid that your body has produced. Furthermore, it allows enough time to ease the strain that a marathon might bring.
Always tell the therapist or masseur to keep the massage gentle. After all, your body is still in its rehabilitative state. Soft and easy touches are the name of the game for this step.
Pairing this tip with the previous one which is doing relaxed exercises will aid your recovery a lot. Many top-notch marathoners are known to engage in massage and exercise on the same day for better healing.
#7 Test Run after a Week
When I say test run, it does not mean that you have to grind yourself to full active capacity. Instead, it means a mere assessment of any pains that you may have. Around half an hour of observation is more than enough for this tip. Pushing through more might cause strain.
Do this at a pace you are most comfortable with. After all, you are not fully healed by this time.
Prevent yourself from exerting too much effort through hill running, or garnering performance records. It is better to think that this is just a stepping stone towards full recovery rather than a shortcut.
Discipline is key to a fast yet effective recovery. By keeping in heart and body the basics of proper eating, sleeping, resting, and exercising, you will be on your way to your next major marathon event.
No two marathoners are the same, so observe yourself as well as your habits, and apply these tips accordingly. As always, keep your passion for marathons burning by being safe both in and out of the road.