Post-race recovery is an important aspect of every runner’s training plan, but it is often neglected. Ignoring this important phase after your race can put you at a higher risk of injury and can also limit your long term potential as a runner. If you rush right back into training immediately after a race, you can suffer from “overtraining” symptoms, and if you switch to dormancy due to marathon fatigue… well, you aren’t helping your long term performance at all.
Why is it so important to “recover” from a marathon? Simply because every part of your body, from your muscles and tendons to your hormones, are pushed to the limit during a race. A runner’s body goes through a lot of physical stress, including muscular soreness and fatigue, inflammation and cellular damage. The immune system is also severely compromised for a minimum of three days after a marathon, making runners susceptible to illnesses, particularly the flu. Research has proved that it takes any time between 3 and 15 days for the body to get back to normal after a half or full marathon.
The first secret to marathon recovery is not running for 3 days after the race, and loading up on nutritious food. Load up on carbs and proteins to help repair muscle damage. Fruits rich in Vitamin C and Antioxidants give your immune system a boost.
Massages can be good, but make sure you don’t go in for a deep tissue massage. Remember that your muscles will be tender after a race, and vigorous massages can cause more harm than good. Soak in a hot tub for ten to fifteen minutes and do some light stretches.
From the fourth day onwards, start running again, but only between 3 and 5 kilometers. Remember that at this stage, you must not concentrate on fitness, but on gradually getting your body back to your running routine. Walking also helps between the first and second week after a marathon. It’s ok to test the waters will short runs, but it’s best to keep the intensity of these low, and the distances short.
After the initial week of simmering, and provided you are feeling well, gradually increase your distance and intensity until you are back to your regular routine, without aches and pains. But do keep in mind that every runner’s body is different and recovery time will also vary from person to person.