Running a marathon is a common exercise goal. It can also be one of the most challenging targets to achieve. The body goes through a lot when running a marathon, so recovering well and fully is crucial to prevent injury.
It is best to come up with a plan for your recovery before you run your marathon. This should include plenty of healthy and nutritious foods, a set period of rest and much more. This article will explore some of the crucial things you will need during your recovery to help you get fighting fit and ready to get back out running.
One of the most important things you can do after a marathon is rest, though many runners find this the most difficult part of their recovery. Going from running almost every day and completing one of the biggest running challenges to taking it easy with your feet up can be a difficult change of pace. It is recommended that you rest for at least a week post-marathon, though this may vary.
This doesn’t mean you need to stay in bed the entire time. Instead, you should do some gentle exercise like taking regular walks. You could also do some relaxing yoga to help your muscles recover.
You should ensure you eat plenty of carb-heavy food after your marathon – though not too soon after. It is best to have a small snack immediately after the race and save your big meal for later on when your appetite returns. A popular choice for the first post-marathon meal is pasta, which has plenty of carbs and some protein to help you fuel your body. It is best to avoid alcohol and instead drink plenty of water.
Avoid stretching immediately after the race. You need to give your muscles time to start recovering from the race. Wait a few hours and then do some gentle stretches, listening to your body and avoiding overexertion.
Electrolytes are crucial to help you to recover from your marathon. You can get electrolytes from salty snacks, fruits like bananas, and sports drinks. It is best to consider in advance how you will replenish your electrolytes post-race. If you have someone waiting for you at the finish line, you could ask them to take a bag of supplies for you to use when you’re finished with the race.
Hydration and electrolytes often go hand in hand. You should ensure you get plenty of water before, during and after the marathon. Hydration powder like Drip Drop ORS can be the perfect thing to help you get hydration and electrolytes in one, being as effective at tackling dehydration as an IV drip. They are also easy to carry and use, simply adding the powder to water.
A common mistake that people make after a marathon or other strenuous activity is getting into a hot tub or bath to help ease their aching muscles. While this may offer short term relief, it can cause muscles to seize up, causing more pain and aching the next day.
It is better to take an ice bath, or at the very least, a cool shower. This can help get the blood circulating again and will be much more effective at soothing your muscles. Fill the tub with ice and water, resting in it for five to 15 minutes.
A sports massage can be a great way to relieve any potential injury and avoid getting too stiff. You should avoid massage in the first 24 hours to allow your muscles time to start recovering. After this, you could contact a professional masseuse to help you work out any knots or injuries. If you notice specific pain straight after the race, there will usually be sports masseuses on hand to help you, and it is vital that you follow their advice.
A good night’s rest is crucial to help your body recover. You should avoid anything with caffeine after the race, both to help you stay hydrated and to ensure you get the best possible sleep. Ideally, you should head home to your familiar surroundings and bed.
If you have travelled for the race, it is best to get a hotel room to avoid having to remain seated while travelling and so that you have a good place to rest. You may find that you sleep for longer post-marathon than you usually do. This is normal and is your body’s way of recovering from strenuous activity.
In the weeks after your marathon, it is crucial that you build back to exercising slowly. As mentioned above, you should avoid strenuous activity for at least a week, though the amount of time you need to rest will depend on your specific needs. It is important not to remain inactive and instead do gentle exercises like walking, yoga, and stretching.