You did it. You overcame the odds and successfully completed a marathon. No matter how long it took or whether this was your first or 10th, running a marathon is something a select number of people can claim. Be proud of yourself for achieving a lofty - and lengthy - goal.
It raises a key question, though: Now what? While the body was meant for moving, coursing 42.2 kilometers within a few hours is not exactly easy on the body. So, you need the proper amount of rest, nutrition and non-weight bearing activity for the body's natural repair processes to kick in.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind following race day so you can recover the right way:
1. Take an Ice Bath
This certainly doesn't sound all that soothing, which is something you're no doubt seeking after a hard-fought marathon. But the cold can pay big dividends, according to Runner's World magazine. The pounding the legs endure over thousands upon thousands of steps takes a toll and can cause inflammation, the body's natural response to wear and tear. Soaking in an ice-cold bathtub for five to 10 minutes can promote healing and reduce the symptoms associated with inflammation, like swelling, redness and soreness.
2. Fuel Back Up
Have you ever wondered how many calories you burn during a marathon? Depending on your age, muscle mass and weight, it's in the neighbourhood of 2,600! The body turns glucose into glycogen to get your muscles moving. And once stores are depleted, it relies on fat and then muscle tissue, essentially eating away at itself.
To prevent this, you need a smart nutrition plan. Within the first 30 to 60 minutes of crossing the finish line, seek out quality carbohydrates, like bananas, yogurt, sports drinks with electrolytes, and pretzels. These options contain nutrients you're short on after the race. As a general rule, you should try to consume 0.5 grams of carbohydrates for every pound of body weight, according to Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian and contributor for The Globe and Mail. If you're not all that hungry — which is fairly common after intense exercise — shoot for a high-protein beverage or whole food. Beck also notes that foods and beverages with high levels of protein do an effective job of replacing glycogen, perhaps as good as high carbohydrate sources.
3. Listen to Your Body
As the old saying goes, no pain no gain, right? While exercise itself can be uncomfortable, it should never be painful. This is especially true following a long-distance race. In other words, after completing a marathon some people like to get "right back on the horse," ready to pound out another three to five kilometers as per usual. However, not allowing yourself to take it easy for the next few days can lead to mental burnout or physical injury. Listen to your body and take advantage of some good old-fashioned R and R. Do right by your body, and it’ll do right by you.
4. Resume Cross Training Slowly
After a solid 72 hours of rest, you should be ready to get into exercise mode. Be careful, though, there's a tendency to overdo it when you haven't done much of anything for a few days. Resist this urge and return to normal gradually. For instance, four days after your marathon, shoot for doing some core strength training by using your body as its own source of resistance. Exercises may include planks, hanging knee raises and side bends. Performing these exercises will help put you in a better state of balance and promote muscle repair.
5. Pace Yourself - Literally
You're likely wondering when you can get back to running hard once the marathon’s over. As Runner's World point out, there's no straight answer to this question. Some experts suggest you should take several weeks off, while others say three days is long enough. It all goes back to listening to your body and knowing what's best for you. Exercise physiologist Susan Paul says a good rule of thumb is 72 hours of nothing but rest, then active recovery on day four. This means low-intensity exercise for no more than 60 minutes, like cycling, swimming, or brisk walking.
By taking things slow and using common sense post-marathon, you'll be ahead of the game before you know it.