Optimising Your Marathon Recovery: Dos and Don’ts

by | Mar 2, 2024 | Healthy posture & movement

A man jogging on a dirt road, vulnerable to Achilles tendon injuries.

Completing a marathon is a monumental achievement, but what you do after the race is just as important as the race itself when it comes to your body’s recovery. In this blog, we’ll explore the essential dos and don’ts to help you recover effectively and get back on your feet.

The Dos:

1. Sports Massage

Muscle tightness post-marathon can hinder the delivery of vital nutrients and oxygen to your cells.   This is where the remarkable benefits of sports massage comes into play. Sports massage excels in enhancing circulation and facilitating the efficient removal of metabolic waste from your muscles. While research shows that sports massage does not lead to increased muscle strength or endurance, it does show notable benefits in enhancing flexibility and reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). It achieves this by effectively lowering lactic acid levels, which is the primary source of discomfort associated with DOMS.

Practical application: To address the ongoing buildup of lactic acid and metabolic waste in the hours and days following the race, it is recommended to schedule a sports massage within the 24 to 48-hour window after completing the race.

2. Ice Baths

Following a marathon, immersing yourself in cold water triggers vasoconstriction, causing your blood vessels to narrow. This narrowing of blood vessels is important because it slows down the metabolic processes within your muscles. This slowdown is beneficial as it reduces inflammation and limits tissue damage, ultimately lessening the intensity of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Then, when you step out of the cold water, your body begins to naturally warm up. This rewarming process is a good thing because it enhances circulation. The increased blood flow acts as a turbocharger for your body’s innate healing mechanisms, facilitating the efficient delivery of essential nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. 

Practical Application: Take an ice bath as soon as possible after your marathon, keeping the water temperature between 10-15 degrees Celsius for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Active Recovery

Active recovery entails participating in low-intensity exercises as opposed to complete rest following a marathon. This method effectively alleviates muscle tension, boosts blood circulation, aids in lactic acid clearance, reduces DOMS, and enhances overall athletic performance. Aside from the physical benefits, active recovery also contributes to mental well-being by lowering stress and assisting you in remaining aware of your body’s healing needs, making it a comprehensive approach to marathon recovery.

Practical application: Consider activities like cycling, walking, swimming, or yoga for your active recovery.

4. Proper Nutrition

After intense exercise, like running a marathon, your body’s glycogen stores, which provide vital energy, can be substantially depleted. To support an effective recovery, it’s crucial to replenish these glycogen stores promptly. Research recommends a particular nutrient ratio: 4 parts carbohydrates to 1 part protein. Carbohydrates are key for refilling glycogen stores, while protein helps with muscle repair and growth. 

Practical Application: Post-marathon, opt for foods like chocolate milk, bananas, or protein shakes to kickstart the recovery process.

5. Adequate Sleep

Participating in a marathon subjects your muscles to considerable stress, resulting in microscopic tears within the muscle fibres. During uninterrupted deep sleep, your body activates the release of growth hormone, acting as a repair mechanism for the damaged muscle tissue. Furthermore, this restorative phase supports the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a fundamental energy source crucial for muscle function and overall physical performance. 

Practical application: Aim for 9-10 hours of sleep following a marathon to support optimal recovery.

The Don’ts:

1. Avoid Excessive Alcohol Intake

Alcohol dehydrates your body and can impede the absorption of carbohydrates and proteins from your post-run meal. Limit alcohol consumption to support effective recovery.

2. Avoid Anti-Inflammatories

Anti-inflammatory medications may seem tempting for sore muscles, but they can interfere with your body’s natural healing response, which is crucial for muscle recovery. Steer clear of them after a marathon.

Conclusion: 

In conclusion, your post-marathon recovery plan is essential for long-term success. Follow these dos and don’ts to optimise your recovery process and ensure you’re back on the track, feeling stronger and healthier than ever.

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