After 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.