R4W’s Post-Marathon Recovery Checklist
Running the London Marathon this Sunday? Or know someone who is? Our post-marathon recovery checklist aims to get you back on your feet.
Whether this is your first marathon or your 50th, you’ll be feeling all sorts of sore during next week! Whilst there’s no way around the post-marathon aches, pains and exhaustion, there’s plenty you can do to minimise the damage done (and to speed up your recovery).
Try our 9 post-marathon race day tips and enjoy a more comfortable week!
Oh – and best of luck from all of us at running4women. We’re proud of you!
What you eat in the hours and days after your marathon will significantly impact your recovery. Hydration should come first (particularly if Sunday is a hot day). Rehydrating in the first two hours after the race is particularly important. It will actually help your muscles stay more pliable. Drink plenty of water, and at least one electrolyte-replacement drink. Rather than a commercial sports drink, replenish glycogen with a homemade mixture of real fruit juice and water. After the race, eat what you can (our favourites include a banana or other fruit, a sandwich with a protein filling, or a flapjack). Within a few hours, eat a decent meal of carbohydrates, protein and a little fat. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Put Your Feet Up
Literally! Elevating your feet and ankles may help your body get rid of lactic acid, and will certainly help prevent blood pooling in the lower body, therefore helping offset swelling and puffiness. And it feels really nice! Either lie down with your feet on a couple of pillows, or prop your feet up against a wall whilst you lie on the floor. You could even sleep with your feet on a pillow for the first few days after your marathon.
Ease Your Muscles… Gently
You might not feel like stretching immediately after your marathon but in the days following the race, a bit of stretching and even some foam rolling will help (unless you’ve picked up an injury). As soon as you feel up to it, use your foam roller to very gently ease out tight, sore muscles. And then gently do your standard runner stretches: calves, soleus, hamstrings, quads, glutes and even your upper body. If anything hurts, stop. This is just about easing off any tightness and reintroducing some mobility.
Try Active Mobility Stretches
Dynamic stretches may be better for you in the post-marathon period. Try things like high-knee raises, leg swings or body weight squats to move your joints and stretch your running muscles at the same time.
The jury is still out on ice baths but anecdotal evidence is enough for us. Runners at all levels, from beginners to elite, club and professional, use ice therapy to recover from marathons, so it’s worth a try. To really go for it, you’l want to fill a bathtub with cold water and ice cubes. You may find it easier to sit in the bath first, then have someone pour the ice in. You only need to cover your legs and glutes, and can even wear clothing on your top half (and a hat!) if you want. If that’s too much for you, just sit in a bath of cold water. Don’t overdo immersion time: 10-15 minutes is enough. Then allow your body to warm up naturally by getting dry and dressed (don’t use warm water).
Rest As Much As You Need To…
You might find it difficult to sleep the night after your race. But your body will be crying out for rest (after all, it’s when our bodies repair and recover). So nap when you can, and get early nights in the week after your marathon.
…But Stay Active
Having said that, resist the temptation to sit around all week. This will lead to stiffness and more soreness. A great low-level activity to do this week is walking. It will help stave off any post-race blues, will encourage your body to get rid of lactic acid, and will keep the blood flowing through your muscles to ease the soreness.
Ease Inflammation (Without Pills)
Inflammation is actually your body’s protective mechanism against damage whilst it repairs and recovers. So it’s best not to aggressively attack inflammation with NSAIDs like ibuprofen. Help your body bring down marathon inflammation the natural way with the tips above (cold water therapy, elevating your legs, drinking lots of water) and by eating anti-inflammatory foods like healthy fats (avocados and oily fish are good) and leafy greens.
What About Training?
You may be glad of the break, or you might feel anxious to train this week. It’s quite natural; after all, you’ve spent months now focusing on the race. But bear in mind just how much recovery your body needs. Learn to love walking, and other low-impact activity like gentle bikes rides and swimming. These will help your body recover without adding to the impact and damage caused by the 26.2. After a week’s rest or light activity, you can ease back into running slowly if you feel up to it.