The Marathon came to its end and you did it! The hard efforts have paid off, and now you have come to an end. Or is this not the end? Did you know that as much attention you paid on your preparation for the Marathon, the same you should pay on your restoration?
Yes, you read well! It is true that those who neglect this part increase the risk of injury, overall recovery time, but they also decrease future chances for high athletic performance and overall health! Many athletes are in a hurry to return to their usual rhythms, but this will lead to symptoms of overtraining.
It is important, therefore, to give our body a breath and allow it to recover completely before we return to our workout. But how can we achieve this?
Just after the Marathon
However badly you want to stop, do not! Try to keep walking for a few more minutes, so as not to make a sudden transition. You may not want to put anything in your mouth at this time, but try to drink some water and eat something light, like a banana or a bar.
Don’t forget that glycogen stores after a marathon are empty, so you will need a meal with well-digestive carbohydrates and a little protein (an ideal ratio of 4: 1). A good choice is a room-temperature smoothie, which will be easy to absorb while it supplies you with carbohydrates and protein. Generally, have in mind that during the marathon, blood goes to the muscles that work feverishly and stay away from the stomach. So give your stomach time to return to normal rhythm, avoiding big meals the rest of the day.
Because the temperature in your body will begin to fall sharply, wrap it with a blanket and find fast dry clothes. You will immediately feel better! The rest of the day try to make a light walk to help the blood circulation. Also, avoid stretching now and the next few days, as the muscles are too sensitive and it would cause some injury!
When you return home or at the hotel have a cool shower or switch from cold to hot water on your legs for several times (around 5’). This will help the blood circulate and transfer oxygen to the tissues, as well as remove lactic acid.
The next few days
The next few days are very important for your recovery. How quickly you will retreat depends on your body and how well you will take care of it. Avoid exercising for the first few days and restrict to a light walk.
Hot bath and massage
In the next few days, prefer hot baths for 10-15 ‘ to relax the muscles. It will help you a lot if you add 3 cups of Epsom salts and 1 cup of soda into the water. In addition, a light massage will help you relax, though be careful! Do not plan a strong program and let your masseuse know that you’ve finished a marathon so as to focus on gentle moves to get rid of toxins that have accumulated.
Priority to sleep
Add 1 hour sleep on your schedule the week after the Marathon. A recent study by Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, published in Journal Sports Med, suggests that 9-10 hours of sleep is needed after a demanding race(1).
Proteins are essential for muscle recovery. After intense exercise, they help repair the damage caused to the muscles, reduce cortisol, and inflammation. Whey Protein is a very good source of BCAA (branched chain amino acids), which contributes to the synthesis of protein and thus muscle tissue.
You will already know how important electrolytes are when an exercise lasts several hours. Imagine how much your body needs them during and after the Marathon! Electrolytes help to replenish all those minerals we lost through sweating during the race
If something is necessary after such an intense procedure for the body, this is magnesium! As your muscles will be intense for many days, you will need magnesium to relax and reduce muscle cramps.
Omega 3 and Bromelain
Omega-3 can help reduce inflammation after exercise, thanks to these two basic fatty acids: DHA and EPA. Research has shown that fish oil supplements reduce inflammation in the airways while increasing lung function after exercise (2).
Bromeline, also an anti-inflammatory agent, helps to balance testosterone levels, which seem to fall after intense exercise such as the Marathon (3).
Such an intense activity as the Marathon results in the production of many free radicals. This can exhaust body’s storage in antioxidants, causing free radicals to become dangerous to our cells. High levels of free radicals are associated with muscle soreness after exercise. So you can boost your diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and you can equip yourself with some antioxidant supplement!
Back to Running?
Returning in running must be very gradual and at a slow rhythm. After the first week of rest, you can slowly put in your daily life a very light exercise of 30% of your workout (both in intensity and duration). It is good to choose cross-training, as your training for the Marathon had targeted specific muscles while others may have been neglected. Try swimming, small bike rides, balance exercises, and more.
Gradually increase the intensity and duration of the running, without exaggerating. Even if you feel excited because you’re back on the run, remember that you’re still in the process of recovery! There will be time for strong training later. Keep in mind that you will return to your rhythm after about 4 weeks, although this time varies depending on the situation
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