Running a marathon is a major accomplishment for anyone who decides to embark on this treacherous journey. But if you trained hard and achieved it, then great for you!
You are one of the few who’ve actually made it to the finish line. And in doing so, now it’s time to repair your body for the next run (if you decide to do it again). But either way, you need marathon recovery to ensure your body heals properly.
You’ve just done the impossible and your bones, joints, and muscles are really going to feel it. Below, you’ll learn more about what happens to your body after a marathon run and what you can do to repair it.
Fatigue in the Skeletal Muscles
One symptom of marathon running is soreness and fatigue in your muscles. The amount of inflammation found in your calf muscles alone shows how much stress is placed on them from training and marathon running.
This, in turn, causes fiber necrosis, which causes severe damage to muscle power and durability for about two weeks after a marathon.
Damage to Your Cells
Yes, running a marathon causes symptoms all the way to your cells. This includes:
- oxidative damage
- production of creatine kinase (indicates damage caused to your myocardial and skeletal tissue)
- a boost of myoglobin levels in your blood (and sometimes blood is present in your urine)
Creatine kinase damage happens for as long as a week after a marathon, which means you need at least 7-10 days of rest afterward for marathon recovery.
A Compromised Immune System
Then what further cripples is the fact your immune system is severely compromised after a marathon.
This means you’re more prone to getting the flu or a cold. Your immune system is weakened for up to three days following a marathon. So plenty of rest is needed during the first three days.
Altogether, research shows you need a minimum of 2 weeks of proper marathon recovery. The following will go into what you should be doing the entire time during your recovery.
Marathon Recovery Begins Immediately After the Race
The first thing you should do after a marathon is to put on warm clothes. And maybe even drink something warm. You may fee cold quickly after the run (likely due to all the sweat).
Next, you need to get something into your stomach. A top pick for marathon runners is bananas. Other options include energy bars, fruit, bagels and sports drinks.
Once you get back to your hotel room, consider taking an ice bath – literally. Pour ice and cold water inside of the tub and submerge yourself for about 15 minutes. The water doesn’t have to be too cold – about 65 degrees Fahrenheit is fine.
After you’ve taken the ice bath, you can walk around or take a nap. Walking will help to loosen up your legs. Spend the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying your achievement.
Days 1 through 3
Within this time frame, you should avoid running and cross training. It’s good to continue soaking in a bath, but with hot water for between 10 and 15 minutes.
Make sure to stretch your muscles afterward. As for your food, you want to consume lots of protein, fruits, and carbs. The muscle recovery will come from the protein and carbs, while the antioxidants and vitamin C boost from fruit will help eliminate free radical damage and enhance your immune system.
Hopefully, you have someone or a preferred masseuse who can give you light massages to loosen your muscles. At this point, you don’t want to engage in any type of deep tissue massages.
Days 4 through 7
Now, is the time to begin running once a day. Engage in a light jog for two to four miles per day. If you want to do cross training, you can. If so, you want to only do two days weekly for about 30 to 40 minutes.
The key is to promote blood flow in your legs. So the goal isn’t to build your fitness.
At this time, you want to continue eating healthy foods. And if you’re ready for the deep tissue massage, nows the time. This is ideal if you have areas that are injured or bothering you.
It’s also a great time for contrast bathing your lower body. What you need are two large garbage cans. One filled with ice water and the other hot bath temp water.
Then you submerge your bottom half into the cold bin for five minutes. Then get into the hot water bin for another five minutes. Repeat these steps two or three times, ending with the cold.
This is to help rush blood to the areas needing healing.
Then before going to bed (an hour before), you want to take an Epsom salt bath. But before you do, massage your legs using a stick or your hands. Then place them inside of a hot bath with three cups of Epsom salt and a cup of baking soda.
You only need to sit in here for about 10 to 15 minutes. Afterward, stretch well and then relax for the rest of the evening.
Days 7 through 14
Now, you can start running three to four days out of the week for four to six miles. This should be easy. Cross training is still optional, with about three sessions weekly. One should be simple, while the others requiring medium effort.
These sessions should be no longer than 30 to 40 minutes.
Days 14 through 21
At this point, you want to begin slowly building up to full training. Your running should now be four to five times out of the week for four to eight miles. You should be able to do 4 x 20 sec strides following each run.
Then as for your cross training, you need to do one easy session, one medium session and one hard session. Each session should be between 40 and 50 minutes.
Get the Recovery Your Body Needs
After a marathon, you should treat your body as though it’s injured. If you want to get back into training quickly, you should use the above tips.
You can also head over toe Ec3d Sports to get proper recovery gear to make the process simpler. This includes using products like compression socks, tights, and sleeves for your knee, calf and ankle.
Shop around today to see how you can give your marathon recovery a boost!