Recovering from a marathon or endurance event is really important to help with resuming normal day to day life and reducing fatigue and muscle soreness. Although preparing for your next event may not be an immediate current thought, recovering properly will help to prevent future injury and improve subsequent performance.
Why is it important and what happens to your body?
Running a marathon or doing an iron man is punishing and you are asking tough demands on your body.
After the marathon, your legs are full of muscles which, on the cellar level, are damaged and have millions of micro-tears. This transfers into feeling muscle soreness and fatigued. The consequence of muscle soreness and fatigue is decreased muscle strength and impaired muscle power. Added to this our immune system is severely compromised, which increases the risk of contracting colds and the flu.
What strategies should we adopt
1. Good – quality sleep
Trying to get a good night’s sleep is really important post marathon because you will be fatigued and lacking energy. The main aim of sleep is to restore the body’s main energy supplies that will down following the marathon. Sleep is important for brain function and helping with muscle recovery through a process called protein synthesis and releasing growth hormones.
Food and water are equally important for helping repair your muscles. Be sure to consume carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes. Carbohydrates are important for rebuilding energy stores. Protein is very important component to help with muscle repair. Electrolytes are important because you will have lost a lot of sodium and potassium through sweating and so it is important to restore depleted anti-oxidants.
3. Rest and Active recovery
It is important to rest initially post marathon. After 48-72 hours you should begin some active recovery which is very light in nature. A simple no resistance bike ride, walk or swim would be recommended. This process is important to get blood-flow and oxygen to damaged muscle tissue. It helps with healing of the damaged muscles that occurred in the race.
Before returning to running, I would recommend a short resisted bike and pool run session at 5-7 days post marathon. The resistance on the bike and the buoyancy of the water will help to flush out the toxins and waste products that are still in the body.
4. Sports massage
A light massage will help loosen your muscles and gently flush out any lactic acid build up, reduce post exercise soreness and blood-flow to tight muscles. Apart from the physiological benefits, a massage can be a nice time to reflect. It can be a big psychological lift and helps you feel better. We have massage therapists at all our clinics here a Compass Physio.
5. Return to training
There is no right or wrong here. It is very much depending on how you feel following completion of the above steps. Some people will be motivated to get going again quite soon, others will be physically sore and others will be psychologically finding it difficult taking a little longer. The key this to be gradual and avoid sudden sharp progressions when you do return. Adopt good training principles including flexibility and strength training.
Respect any niggles or injuries that you may have. Now is a good time to get these sorted before considering your next challenge. We are more than happy to assess and talk through any concerns here at Compass Physio.