Recovery 101 : After the Marathon

Alexander LakhanpalAfter months of preparation, it’s finally happened. You have successfully completed an arduous marathon and it’s time for your body to begin the process of recovery. So what does this look like? Well the recovery periods vary for everyone, but there are certain things to look out for and pay attention to regardless of your age, fitness level, and injuries. However, I would strongly suggest that you consult your physician or trainer to help determine what course of recovery is best for you.

Step 1 : Immediately Following the Race

Because you have just expended so much energy, immediately following the race your core temperature will begin to drop really quickly. Therefore make sure that you bundle up immediately. Along those same lines, replenishing what you have lost is important. Although there will likely be some fanfare immediately following the race, make a point to grab a handful of healthful snacks (like raw almonds) to begin the refueling process. You many not feel that hungry so make sure to bring some food with you. Also, although you have been drinking water throughout the race, make a point to drink some more. You don’t want to get dehydrated. Also stretch it out a little bit before you cool down. Once you get back to your room, take an ice bath with cold water for fifteen minutes. Ideally the temperature will be at fifty five degrees, but really anything under sixty five degrees will do the trick. After you get out of your ice bath, feel free to take a nap, walk around and loosen the legs a bit. Most importantly, just relax you have more than earned it!

Step 2: The Week After

The week following a marathon can be very physically taxing, but there are certain things to remember that will help you get through it. First of all, don’t work out during the three days following. Your body has been through a lot, and your muscles are only beginning to repair the damage from the run. Make a point to soak in a hot tub for ten to fifteen minutes to help loosen your muscles and increase blood flow through the body. Following the hot tub, lightly massage your muscles (very gently). Make a point to continue to fuel up by eating fruits, carbs and protein. Your body is repairing itself and needs the proper ingredients to do this successfully.

During days four to seven make sure that you continue to maintain a healthy diet. Make sure that you are eating enough food and that you are making choices that will truly help you recover. At this point it is perfectly fine to engage in deep tissue massage. Also, take contrast baths. Contrast baths include sitting in a cold bath followed by a warm bath for intermittent periods of 5 minutes. You do this series two to three times and end with the cold bath. The point of contrast baths is to enhance blood flow to your legs.  Prior to going to bed, take an epsom salt bath a

an hour before bed then massage your legs out with a stick or your own hands. Make sure to then stretch and relax. 

Step 3 : Days 7 to 14

During this time you can start to exercise again, but make sure that you are easing yourself back into it. Only exercise for 3 to 4 days this week. An easy four to 6 mile jog so do the trick. Continue to treat your body well, and remember that your immune system is still very vulnerable right now so take it easy.

Step 4 : Days 14 to 21

Continue to be vigilant about any potential injuries. Feed your body healthy foods and don’t push yourself too hard. This is a great time to slowly transition back into your routine, but really listen to what your body is telling you.

As always, do your research, and consult your physician with any questions or persistent  problems. For more information about recovery, see some ideas here.

Stretching 101

Alexander Lakhanpal FitnessRecently, a video surfaced featuring a man doing a split between two chairs while lifting a 100 LB dumbbell above his head. While I don’t condone this practice by any means (this is extremely dangerous to do), it did a great job of showcasing the fact that it’s possible to achieve both strength and flexibility. Jukin Media uploaded the video that supposedly features a bodybuilder trying to raise awareness for, “Hardcore Stretching” by performing this unbelievable feat.

Although I have no advice for attempting what this man performed in this video, it is a great springboard for discussing the basics of stretching. There are two main categories of stretching : dynamic and static. As you can imagine, dynamic stretches involve movement whereas static stretches involve holding a position. These categories can be broken down further into the following subcategories:

Ballistic Stretching utilizes the momentum generated by the body or a limb in an attempt to force it beyond its normal range of motion. This type of stretching can often lead to injury – especially if you aren’t warmed up as it doesn’t let the muscles adjust to or relax in the stretched position. Instead, ballistic stretching cause the muscle to do the complete opposite and tighten up instead.

Dynamic Stretching involves moving parts of your body while gradually increasing the reach or speed of the movement, or both. Although both Ballistic and Dynamic stretching involve movement, the key difference is that dynamic stretching is controlled and gradual where ballistic stretches are neither.

Active Stretching or “static-active stretching” involves assuming a position then holding it with no assistance other than using the strength of your agonist muscles.The tension of these muscles in an active stretch helps to relax the muscles being stretched (the antagonists). Many of the poses in various forms of yoga are active stretches.

Passive Stretching or “relaxed stretching” or “static-passive stretching”involves assuming a position then holding it with a different part of your body, or with the help of a partner or aid. A split is an example of a passive stretch (in this case the floor is the “aid” utilized to stay in the pose).

Static Stretching – some people use the terms “passive stretching” and “static stretching” interchangeably, but others suggest a difference between them. According to those that see these terms as unique; static stretching involves holding a position whereas passive stretching is a technique in which you are relaxed, but don’t actively contribute to the range of motion.

Isometric Stretching falls under the category of static stretching. This type of stretching involves the resistance of muscle groups through tensing or contracting stretched muscles. This type of stretching is a quick way to enhance static-passive flexibility.
PNF Stretching is an effective way known to increase static-passive flexibility. PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. It is not a type of stretching. Instead it is a technique that combines passive and isometric stretches in a way that will achieve the most static flexibility possible. PNF stretching is often performed with partners and the combination of stretches usually involves the; hold-relax, the hold-relax-contract or the hold-relax-swing.

There is discussion over the best point in your workout to perform stretching. Most agree that post-workout is the best time to do a full stretch routine because your muscles are warm, but others contend that if you are doing a more restorative/realignment series of stretches, it’s critical to do this before your workout. Another factor that is important to consider is the type of workout meant to accompany your stretching. Because of this, make sure that you consult with your physician and a professional before starting a new routine to make sure that you maintain proper form and are doing the best thing for yourself.