First of all….A big Congratulations to everyone who completed the London Marathon yesterday! As happens every year, I watch it with great admiration for everyone taking part, no matter what their level of fitness and running prowess! It always makes me think….’maybe I should try it one day’….and then I realise I can’t even complete a half at the moment! One step at a time!
Secondly, sorry for my very long absence when it comes to writing new posts. I can’t believe it was November in which I last posted an article and on running in the cold at that! We’ve had some lovely sunny, mild days of late and my focus is definitely on the summer 🙂
So, very on topic, I decided to make my next post about recovering from events, such as the marathon. Although it doesn’t have to be an actual marathon…but it may be your own personal marathon. Whatever event or distance it is you’ve been training for and pushing yourself towards. Recovery is so important, especially if you have another event on the horizon, or just want to get back to training as soon as possible.
Immediately Post Race
You’ve crossed the finish line, you’re exhausted, and all you want to do is collapse in a heap on the floor! But don’t do it….your body will thank you for it later, even if not right now!
Keep moving. Slowly walk around to keep the blood pumping around your legs and to stop the muscles seizing up. You should be doing this for at least 15 minutes after the race. Put on something dry and warm to stop you getting cold.
Drink. Sip at a isotonic drink whilst moving around. Your body will be dehydrated and the sooner you can replace those lost fluids and salts the faster you will recover.
Stretch. Perform some simple, gentle static stretches. Don’t push yourself hard – just take the muscles through their range of motion to help prevent them stiffening up.
Eat something light. A banana, protein bar or something small that can easily be eaten within the first half an hour after finishing the race.
Get a massage. Many events now offer post-event massage which can be really beneficial in your recovery as they will keep the blood circulating to your tired muscles; stretch out the muscle fibres and flush away lactic acid etc. Added bonus – there’s usually a queue so this will force you to stay standing for a little longer rather than jumping into a cramped car etc.
Eat some more. Drink some more. Make sure you have a proper meal within two hours of completing your event. This should include carbohydrates and proteins in particular, to help replenish your glycogen stores and aid muscle repair. Continue drinking steadily – water is fine at this point. Try to avoid alcohol.
Later that day
Don’t soak it up! Once you’re home, resist the urge for a long hot soak in the tub! By all means have a shower (please have a shower!), hot or cold is fine, whatever you prefer. Unless your particularly sadistic, I don’t recommend an ice bath. The latest research has finally shown no benefits. Thank god.
Keep drinking. You should have really got through some fluids by now. Unless you’re a clever monkey and you weighed yourself pre-race, there’s no exact way of knowing when you are fully hydrated again. The best indicators are the colour and smell of your urine and how often you are peeing. Light coloured and relatively odourless urine is the target and you should be back to peeing regularly – every couple of hours.
Go for a walk. This will help loosen everything off and further stop you from cramping up. Just a nice slow 20 minute walk can work wonders.
Have a good stretch. You can stretch a little more vigorously now – although not into pain. Every stretch should be comfortable. A good 10-15 minutes stretching before bed will make the world of difference to your ability to get out of bed tomorrow!
The Day After
Light exercise. You’ll want to skip any form of intense exercise today, but something light like a nice long walk, or swim will be a great idea to loosen the muscles off and get the blood flowing again – in order to repair any soft tissue damage.
Get warm. Hot tubs and saunas / steam rooms can also be a great way of loosening off. Just be wary that you could still be a little dehydrated so don’t stay in too long.
Stretch. Stretch regularly throughout the day – every few hours. And if you dare, try your foam roller to really iron the muscles out.
Keep drinking. Eat plenty and eat three healthy meals, with a snack or two in-between to keep replenishing those depleted stores.
Two-Four Days Later
You should be really starting to loosen off by now and so now is the time to get a sports massage. Doing this too early can be just plain painful and pointless, so it’s worth waiting that extra day or two.
Start to think about doing some exercise again – be it running or cross-training. Start lightly and don’t force yourself into anything heavy until you feel 100% ready both physically and psychologically. It may be that you feel you need a whole week, or longer, off and that’s absolutely fine – after all – you earned it!