You are two days post marathon, you are sore, you are tired, you are still smiling. Inevitably, the question turns to recovery and the sooner the better; having trouble getting up and down the stairs is only fun for so long, plus there are Turkey Trots to think about and races of all kinds to conquer. So where to begin? A marathon is intense. It requires a lot more of your body physically and mentally than you might think. You have been training for 20 weeks or more for this one big event that pushes your body to the limits.
But now what? You guessed it? It is time to let your body rest. Do not be afraid to do it. Like we just said you have been pushing that body of yours for months on end and it deserves a break; so allow it to have just that. You will not lose your ability to run fast speedy long miles while you are resting, rather you will be doing just the opposite. By allowing your body to rest and therefore recover, you will be in better shape to get back out there quickly. What do we mean by rest? Just that. Take time off from running. The amount of time off depends upon the person, it may be a week, two weeks, a few days. Different coaches and training plans offer different options on how long rest should be, but most agree it is just what the doctor ordered. Just like taper, this can be hard for athletes, but sleep in a little, watch an extra movie or two, do the things you cannot do when you need to get up at dawn to run 20 miles. And do not worry,those 20 miles will be right there waiting for you when you are ready.
Refuel and rehydrate. In the immediate days post marathon, it is necessary to replenish your body with the nutrients it used during the 26.2. It can be hard to eat and drink all that you need the day of the marathon to fully replenish. Thus make sure to do so in the days following. Your water bottle is still your best friend and even if you are resting you may still be just as hungry as you were while training. It is normal, go ahead, listen to your body. Refuel.
While you are resting, be in tune with your body. Are you aching because you just ran the coveted 26.2 or are you injured? If you believe it is the latter, don’t wait, go to your doctor, get it checked out. Better safe than sorry. If you are just plain old sore from the race remember to stretch and ice throughout the day. Identify those trouble spots and target them during your recovery. If need be use a foam roller, the Moji 360, or a variety of other items meant to relieve pain and tightness.
Next up, active recovery. Now that we just told you to rest, we are going to tell you to be active?!? How is that for confusing? Let us explain further. After a few days of resting or some may say the very next day, it is OK to shake those legs out just a tiny bit. Get on the elliptical and just slowly stride back and forth, go for a walk and relax, or hit the bike. You are allowing your body to loosen up those legs and recover by doing these less strenuous activities. They are not meant for speed or hills or mile repeats, but they are meant to help you recover, so allow it to be just that. Some runners choose to compete a recovery run in the days following the race. These are short easy runs that are meant to do the same as the above exercises. Training plans and coaches debate whether this is a useful tool or not. In determining whether or not to try a recovery run, listen to your body and your coach/training plan. If in doubt, stick with cross training at first. Above all else, remember the purpose of this exercise is recovery.
When it is time to get back to running, be gentle on yourself. It takes a significant amount of time to recover from a marathon and your legs know it. They may not be ready to run as long and as fast as you could just several weeks ago. Do not fear, this is just part of the journey. Allow the recovery to take place and you will be back at it in no time. Often times, not wearing a watch or not having specific goals in mind for a time post marathon can help make this transition easier.
Tell us, how do you recover post race?