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After The Marathon - A Guide To A Quick Recovery

After The Marathon - A Guide To A Quick Recovery...

With all of the marathon runners in Bay Area, I figured that this would be a pretty good idea for an article. We've been getting a lot of questions about marathon training and recovery, when to get a massage around marathons, and the best way to recover and to get back to training...  So for all of you Bay Area marathon runners, here's your article...

You've done the months of training, survived the day, and felt the euphoria of crossing the finish line. But how do you facilitate your recovery to ensure you are back out training and injury free as quickly as possible?

Recovery starts at the finish line
  • Take the space blanket- it may take a while to find your kit and you will cool off quickly
  • If possible keep walking and moving around for 10 to 15 minutes- this will gently taper your heart rate to drop back to normal
  • If you do sit or lie straight away there is a short term effect of more blood pooling to the legs increasing the risk of you fainting

Replenish your stores
  • Eat a high carbohydrate snack within 30 minutes of finishing. Something like a banana or sports bar is absorbed most effectively.
  • Over the next few days you can expect to feel more hungry than normal – your body is trying to replenish its reserves. Maintain a health diet but eat whatever you crave,
  • Carbohydrate is important, protein helps with muscle recovery, fruit and vegetables will help to replace minerals and nutrients.

Replace your fluids
  • Whatever the weather, expect your fluid levels to be depleted. This is exacerbated in hot conditions.
  • Start sipping fluids as soon as you finish and continue this through the day. Don’t overload yourself with fluids.
  • Look at the color of your urine. Your urine should be a pale straw color. A deep yellow color means you are dehydrated. No color means cut back on the intake.
  • Pass urine within six hours of the finish. If you have been replacing your fluids, but have not passed urine seek a medical opinion – your kidneys may not be working.
  • Restrict your alcohol intake. Don’t take too much alcohol or caffeine as they have a dehydration effect.

Generally, it takes a minimum of two to three weeks for the body to recover from the strain of running 26 miles 385 yards. Return too quickly and you increase your risk of injury. Some experts suggest resting one day for every mile you run in the marathon, thus 26 days of no hard running or racing! Others suggest one day for every kilometer, thus 42 days rest. Often the determining factor is not how quickly your body recovers, but how quickly your mind recovers, since you temporarily will have lost your main training goal. Olympic champion Frank Shorter says: "You’re not ready to run another marathon until you’ve forgotten the last one."

The training you do in the three weeks following a marathon should be a near mirror of what you did the last three weeks before: in other words, a reverse taper. Your eating after also should mirror your eating before, since a diet high in carbohydrates can help refuel your muscles as well as fuel them. Here is what to do during Week Zero, the week after your marathon.

Day Zero: Day of the marathon - As stated above - Keep moving and start drinking, preferably a replacement drink such as Gatorade. Research suggests that refueling works best if done immediately after exercise, when the body is eager to absorb energy. As soon as your stomach can tolerate food, start eating. Most marathons provide bananas, yogurt and other easily digested high-carbohydrate foods. These are good for you. A long walk to your car or hotel room won’t hurt you. After that, get off your feet and rest an hour or two. By then, you should be ready for more solid food. It too should be high in carbohydrates.

Day One: No running today - No exercise of any kind. Let your body recover.

Day Two: No running! Today’s a good day for a massage. (Schedule one before the marathon.) Although getting a quick rubdown at the finish-line massage tent may have felt good, a massage 24 to 48 hours after the marathon works best.

Day Three: No running! And don’t substitute cross-training in a mistaken belief that it will help you maintain fitness. You may be able to swim or cycle more easily than run because you’ll be using somewhat different muscles, but you still need rest-rest-rest to allow all your muscles to recover. Starting to train too soon can delay that recovery. You earned this period of rest. Take it!

Day Four: You’re cleared to run again, but don’t overdo it. For Novice runners - 2 miles of gentle jogging. Intermediate and advanced runners might do a bit more, but see how your body feels.

Day Five: Now is the time to cross-train. Swim or bike if that is your pleasure, but it’s probably not a good idea to start some new exercise you haven’t been doing the previous 18 weeks. The best cross-training discipline for a recovering marathoner is simple walking. Don’t underestimate the value of this activity. Go at most 2-3 miles.

Day Six:
By now, most of the muscle soreness should be gone. You’re probably ready to resume your regular training routine, but don’t rush things. Stick with the 2- to 3-mile routine today. Or maybe take today off entirely.

Day Seven: Quite often marathoners who did their long runs together in the months leading up to a marathon like to get together to rehash how they did. So call your friends and schedule a run of about an hour, 6 to 8 miles max. But don’t get competitive and push the pace too hard. Your body may feel better again, but it’s still in recovery mode.

Other helpful post-marathon hints...
  • Listen to your body. Allow your self a period of rest. Most people walk only in the first week after the marathon.
  • Reverse taper your training – Start with a short slow run and gradually build up.
  • Consider replacing your shoes - Your shoes by now will have done a fair mileage and have probably lost most of their shock absorbing properties. Alternate runs between the new and old shoes, then gradually build up the runs in the new pair.
  • Beware of picking up bugs and infections
  • Your immune system will be depressed in the first couple of weeks after such an extreme exertion – help it to recover quickly by having a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables for vitamin replenishment.
  • Get plenty of rest – you will probably want to sleep more than your normal.
  • If you do get ill - give yourself time to recover before restarting training.