Post-marathon/ultra recovery is kind of like a box of chocolates. Now I state here a marathon or ultra, but the recovery tips can be used for any kind of high intensity session which you have over exerted yourself beyond the norm, and just like chocolate, you never know what you’re going to get. There are a host of variables that can affect your recovery, such as the intensity of the race, the elements, your health, and the training season. Everyone is different, but there are several post-challenge recovery strategies you canemploy that will aid in speeding up the rate of recovery so you’re not stuck limping around and avoiding stairs all week.
JUST KEEP WALKING
Cross the finish line, finished the game etc. get your medal, take a picture, and keep walking. Although the first instinct may be to drop to your knees and thank the gods that you’ve finished, that isn’t the best way to go. Think about it: You’ve just asked your body to run 42+ km. It’s still in marathon mode when you finish and greatly needs to transition back to normal life.
By walking, your heart rate gradually drops, the circulation diverts back to its resting state and flushes lactic acid from the muscles. Walk at least 10 to 15 minutes—back to your car, hotel, or cab to downshift gently. The last marathon I did, my friends made me walk another mile so they could get the car, I hated them at the time but it really helped!
EAT, DRINK, AND BE MERRY
Eat a small snack within the first 30 to 60 minutes postrace. Save the big meal for later in the day when your appetite returns, and you can enjoy that celebration. The time immediately after the race is more about getting in about 200 to 300 easily-digestible calories from carbohydrates and protein to maintain blood sugar levels, replenish muscle glycogen, and repair muscle tissue.
Half of a turkey sandwich, carrots, and almond butter or crisps will do the trick. If it’s a hot race, try a liquidrecovery drink. Try the 80Noir Ultra Chocolate recovery drink (made hot initially then popped in the fridgeand believe me is delicious to have straight after a race - perfect carb/protein ratio for recovery as well!). If it’s cold, soup gets the job done. Continue to nibble on balanced snacks and meals that are made up of a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein all day. Sip fluids throughout the day to rehydrate.
If possible, soak in a cold water or ice bath for five to 10 minutes and consider wearing compression tights.Both can aid in decreasing inflammation in your legs and speed the rate of healing.
GET A LEG UP
Take five to 10 minutes to do the yoga pose, “Legs Up on the Wall,” or Viparita Karani. It reverses circulation to refresh your legs, gently stretches the lower body muscles, and is a great way to internally celebrate your race (especially when wearing your medal).
STRETCH, ROLL, AND MASSAGE
Wait at least two to six hours after the race to stretch and foam roll and at least 24 hours for a massage. This allows your muscles time to replenish fluids and energy lost and recover from the demands of the race.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
One of the most common mistakes runners make is running too soon after a marathon. Think of the marathon like a car accident (pleasant, huh?). Your body has been through a tough season of training and26.2 miles on the road. The best way to recover is not to do more damage by going out for a run the next day (that is your ego talking).
Take the day to celebrate. Schedule a massage and do some light walking and stretching. Or tear a page from the women’s world record holder Paula Radcliffe‘s book and take a month off to recover, do yoga, and cross train.
If things still hurt, keep cross-training and let it simmer. If you feel good, start back to your normal running frequency in week two, but keep the effort easy and the distance shorter (30 to 60 minutes).
If things are still going well and your body feels good, ease back into distance and intensity in week three.
Celebrate your achievement, book the next race if you so feel inclined but one thing for certain. Give your body the time it needs to recover.