Running is just the thing you do, and to test yourself every now and then you take that leap and sign up for a full marathon. Yes, you’ve done these before, and usually, after you’ve crossed that finish line, you tell yourself that’s the last time you’re going to put yourself through all that training, soreness and sometimes a body breakdown that comes with getting yourself in condition to run a marathon the way you want. But after a few weeks your back on your game, running through your favorite trails to work towards the next one. Why do you do it? Well, probably it’s in your makeup. Your no quitter, otherwise you would not have chosen a sport that demands so much out of your body and especially your mental attitude and how you stay focused on just what you need to do.
But let’s say you just finished a marathon race, one that you ran because it benefited a good cause and you also ran it because you’ve struck up some good friendships with other runners that like to participate in this yearly event. So, it’s over, you came in with a great time and now the post-race and the main thing is to start the recovering and body and mind healing process. After all, you want to enjoy the after-race feelings of accomplishments that are going around. And it’s not usually until the next day that your body lets you know just what you’ve put yourself through.
And since you take your running seriously, you probably have a pretty good and accurate GPS model activity watch that provides you with all the data you need to keep you on track with your performance. But one that I have fallen for, (not literally) is the Garmin Forerunner 935 Multi-Sport GPS Watch, The 935 has a new training status that keeps you informed on just how well your performing, all day, every day. During your training or just walking down to get a paper. There are 7 different stages including, Productive, Overreaching and Peaking and calculates this by tracking your Lactate Threshold and VO2 Max.
Training Load is a 7 days summary of your training to let you know if you are training in the right zone by comparing your HR and V02 Max data. The watch features data on “Multi-Sport Dynamics” (running, swimming, and cycling), VO2 Max, wrist-based heart rate, recovery time, race predictor, and more. The 935 also offers you more ways than ever to store and track your data. Use automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, or use Strava live segments to turn every run into a virtual race. So you see, when you finish your run or any of the above mentioned individual sports, you can get a pretty good idea on just how well your body performed and how long you need to let it rest in order so it can regain its core stamina.
So now that you’ve completed putting your body through the paces, below are a few recommendations, suggestions and just plain common sense from a few sports trainers and physicians that have trained, coached and monitored the health of serious runners for the past 10-15 years.
Check out their recommendations and see if what they say makes sense for you to put them into practice after you’ve finished your run.
Immediately after you finish the race, John-Paul Hezel, a sports medicine physician at BIDMC, recommends putting on warm clothes or making use of the reflective blankets that will be handed out by race officials and medical staff. “The body will cool down, and it’s important to keep blood circulating to all tissues,” he said. “Hydrate with water and electrolytes, chocolate milk is as good as Gatorade or other sports drinks and be sure to eat in the first hour or so after the race. Carbs, protein, healthy fat — all are very important for short- and long-term recovery.” Hezel said that he recommends going for heat after the strenuous exercise over cold like an ice bath — and he said in the days after the race “activity is critical.” He recommends cross-training with swimming, low-resistance biking or even long walks to help your body recover. “Some very light soft tissue mobilization with foam rolling and gentle massage can also aid the process,” Hezel said. “Low-weight or body-weight strength training should be a part of the recovery program just as it should be prior to the race. But lay off heavy weights for a couple weeks.”
Eating the Right Foods After your race: Douglas Comeau, medical director of Boston University Sports Medicine said refueling in the hours after the race is key. “Refueling would include hydration (with both water and electrolyte supplementation) in addition to adequate caloric food intake,” he said. “In the days after the race, the runner should work on physical and mental recovery from the race.” Physical recovery includes stretching and strengthening, according to Comeau. Subsequently, the runner would look to return to run once recovered in the days to weeks after the marathon, he said.
Cool Down-Limber Down: Right after you walk/jog/run across the finish line, Elizabeth Matzkin, chief of Women’s Sports Medicine at Brigham and Women’s, says you should walk for “a little bit. “This is your active recovery,” she said. “Enjoy the moment, make sure you are hydrated and eat some carbs to restore immediate depletion. Change out of your wet/sweaty clothes and put on something dry. Make sure you stay warm.”
Eat a small snack within 30-60 minutes after the race. This is the time when the body is eager to replenish blood sugar levels, depleted energy stores, and start repairing muscle tissue. Pick something that is easy to digest it’s helpful to refer back to foods that have worked throughout training after longer runs.” If you’re not hungry immediately after the race, you can wait till your appetite returns. Later in the day, eating a larger meal high in carbohydrates with protein will be helpful as you continue to replenish and re-hydrate.
Runners should also consider changing into compression socks to help prevent blood pooling in the lower extremities, and Matzkin advised stretching in the two-plus hours after the race. “Once you sit or lay down, consider putting your legs up for a similar effect,” she said. In the following days, get “plenty” of rest since delayed onset muscle soreness can last between four or five days. “You can go for a walk or a short bike ride to keep your muscles moving, but rest is extremely important,” Matzkin said. “Consider cross-training (swimming, yoga, biking) rather than feeling the need to run.”
Short and easy running can be taken up after the first week, and, by three weeks after the race, runs can be longer or faster. “The old mantra is to rest for one day for every 1-mile run, so after a marathon, you should take it easy for 26 days,” she said. When you think about it, all those old “Doctor Yourself” stories have a kernel of truth in them. So again, this one is a good one to take to heart. If you plunge right back into a vigorous training and running program, only a few short days or even a week after running a marathon, you’re only going to subject your body to un-necessary strain which can easily lead to pulled muscles, possibly even a blood clot. So take the advice all trainers give and rest up, gradually engage in moderate exercise that keeps your muscles limber so they won’t tighten up.
Overall, runners should pay the same attention to their recovery as they did their training. “If the runner is concerned that something doesn’t feel quite right, they should seek treatment from a qualified medical professional. “The recovery phase can be different from runner to runner, even from race to race, so listening to your body is key.”
Once that race is over, do NOT just sit down and take it easy! Do an active recovery program by walking, short distances for starters then increasing the distance and pace after that first week. Avoid alcohol. If you are going to celebrate with an alcoholic beverage or two, make sure you are first re-hydrated from the long run!
Avoid deep tissue massage for the first 24+ hours. Your muscles are damaged from the run and need some time to recover.” Runners should absolutely not stop immediately after crossing the finish line, as there is potential for exercise-associated collapse and a trip to a medical tent.
So, there you have it. If you think about what the professionals have mentioned above, a lot of what they say involves just plain good old common sense. Remember, you’ve put yourself and your body through a grueling endurance event. And you need to recover both physically and mentally.
After all, is said and done, you have a lot to be proud of. You’ve become one of the few who takes on a body sapping experience and have come out at the end with the prize of knowing that all of your training has paid off. So now its time to bask in the glow and let your body recover….
Until its time for the next one! See you at the next finish line!