With Kaapsehoop and Soweto Marathon behind how do you recover properly without any injuries……..
Unfortunately, if you don’t properly recover from your marathon, you’ll increase your injury risk, increase the total marathon recovery time, and limit your long-term potential – making it harder to break your PR and stay healthy.
We’ve heard all the arguments from athletes wanting to jump back into training or racing immediately after their race. More often than not, runners who do not follow a proper post marathon recovery plan find their subsequent performances stagnating or they suffer from overtraining symptoms.
What Happens To My Body When I Run A Marathon?
Marathons are tough on the body – there’s no way to sugar coat this fact. Muscles, hormones, tendons, cells, and almost every physiological system is pushed to the max during a marathon race.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Comrades qualifier or it’s your first marathon, 42km is 42km and your body has undergone tremendous physical duress, let alone the stress you have put on your body running according to your marathon training schedule.
Here is a list of some of the scientifically measured physiological systems that are most effected after a marathon and how long each takes to fully repair.
Muscles soreness and fatigue are the most obvious case of damage caused by running the marathon distance.
One scientific study conducted on the calf muscles of marathon runners concluded that both the intensive training for, and the marathon itself, induce inflammation and muscle fiber necrosis that significantly impaired muscle power and durability for up the 14 days post marathon.
Accordingly, it will take your muscles about 2 weeks post marathon to return to full strength.
Cellular damage post marathon, which includes oxidative damage, increased production of creatinine kinase (CK) – a marker that indicates damage to skeletal and myocardial tissue, and increased myoglobin levels in the blood stream (which often results in blood being present in urine).
One study concluded that CK damage persisted more than 7 days post marathon while another study confirmed the presence of myoglobin in the bloodstream post marathon for 3-4 days post race.
Both of these studies clearly indicate that the body needs at least 7-10 days of rest post marathon to fully recover from the cellular damage caused during the race.
These markers, along with a suppressed immune system, which is discussed below, is the primary reason that the optimal marathon recovery schedule avoids cross training the first 2-3 days.
Post marathon, the immune system is severely compromised, which increases the risk of contracting colds and the flu.
Furthermore, a suppressed immune system is one of the major causes of overtraining. A recent study confirms that the immune system is compromised up to three days post marathon and is a major factor in overtraining syndrome.
Therefore, it is critical that you rest as much as possible in the three days following a marathon and focus on eating healthy and nutrient rich foods. The research clearly indicates that the marathon induces significant muscle, cellular, and immune system damage for 3-14 days post race.
It is essential that all marathon runners have a 2-3 week marathon recovery protocol that focuses on rest and rejuvenation of these physiological systems.
How To Recover After Running a Marathon
We’re going to outline a nutrition, rehab, cross training, and running plan for the 3 weeks after a marathon. This rehab plan is guaranteed to help you recover faster and return to training as quickly as possible.
Cross Training: none
Recovery Tips and tricks:
- Soak in a hot tub for 10-15 and stretch well afterwards.
- Each lots of fruits, carbohydrates, and protein. The Carbs and protein will help repair the muscle damage while the fruits will give you a boost of vitamin C and antioxidants to help combat free radical damage and boost your immune system.
- Light massage will help loosen your muscles. Don’t schedule a deep tissue massage yet, just a gentle effleurage massage or a light rolling with the stick.
Running: One day, 3-5km very easy
Cross Training: Optional – Two days, 30-40 minutes easy effort. The focus is on promoting blood flow to the legs, not building fitness.
Recovery Tips and Tricks:
- Continue eating a healthy diet
- Now is the time you can get a deep tissue massage if you have areas that are really bothering you or that are injured.
- Contrast bath your lower body. To contrast bath, take large trash cans and fill one with hot (hot bath temp) water and the other with ice water (cold enough so some ice still doesn’t melt) and put your whole lower body into the cold. Hold for 5 minutes and then switch to the hot for 5 mins. Repeat 2 or 3 times, ending with cold. This helps rush blood in and out of the area, which facilitates healing.
- Epsom Salt Bath. About an hour before bed, massage your legs out with the stick or self massage and then soak in a hot/warm bath with 3 cups epsom salt and 1 cup baking soda for 10-15 minutes. After the soak, stretch real well and relax. This always perks up my legs quite a bit and you’ll also sleep great.
Running: Three or four days of 4-6 miles very easy.
Cross Training: Optional – Three sessions total. One easy session and two medium effort sessions for 30-45 minutes.
Running: Begin to slowly build back into full training. My suggestion is four to five runs of 4-8 miles with 4 x 20 sec strides after each run.
Cross Training: 1 easy session, 1 medium session, and 1 hard session of 40-50 minutes.
Don’t worry about losing any running fitness during this recovery period. It’s much more important to ensure proper recovery so you can train even harder during your next training cycle.
If you don’t let yourself recover now, you’ll simply have to back off your workouts when it matters and put yourself on the verge of overtraining.
Try not to schedule any races until 6 weeks after your marathon.
Patience is a virtue, but it will pay off in the end.
Feel you need that extra help and in need of a sports massage to sort out any niggels why not go and see Emma @ Griffith Bio or phone 072 695 3085