First off, let us congratulate you! You ran 26.2 miles. That’s a huge achievement and, hopefully, you’re still basking in a sea of endorphins and a great sense of self pride. But your legs hurt. Your knees are starting to stiffen up and your toenails are starting to look like they might not hang around for much longer.
Time to start focusing on good marathon recovery? Yes. Every recovery is different but here are some useful tips to follow in the week after your marathon to help speed up yours so you can get on with thinking about your next big challenge.
As lovely as the idea of a hot bath is, don’t be tempted to hop in for a long, steamy soak quite yet. You’ll be experiencing some considerable inflammation in your joints after running such a long way, so soaking in cold, or even iced, water for 5 - 10 minutes will be much more useful in helping to reduce the inflammation.
If you have particular ‘hot spots’ of pain, for example on your hips, hamstrings, knees or glutes, you can use an ice pack or ice bag to address those specific areas. Apply the cold pack to the sore area for up to 10/15 minutes several times throughout the day and throughout the following week to aid recovery and reduce any swelling.
Raise your Legs
Take 10 minutes each day in the week after your marathon to lie on your back and raise your legs against a wall. This popular yoga exercise is a quick and easy way to refresh tired legs, prevent fluid ‘pooling’ in the lower legs and to help improve the blood circulation.
If your legs are feeling particularly sore or tired, and you find yourself on your feet a lot, say at work, in the days after your marathon you might want to wear a discreet compression sock or compression stocking. These are designed to improve blood circulation by gently squeezing the leg and pushing the blood back towards the heart. They’re also great to use as a preventative measure (or supportive tool) for varicose veins.
It might seem obvious but one of the best ways to ensure your body can repair and recover is to make sure you get plenty of sleep this week. BUT don’t be tempted to spend long, lazy days lying around as too much inactivity will be counterproductive and your sore muscles won’t thank you for not giving them the chance to move around. Aim for at least 8 - 9 hours sleep each night in the week after your marathon.
Another great addition to your post marathon recovery strategy is a foam leg raiser which can be used while you’re lying down in bed or taking a short nap/rest. The leg raiser is designed to support swollen legs, ease back pain and stimulate circulation.
Immediately after your marathon you should be making sure you keep hydrated and try to have a small, protein-filled snack like some nuts, a protein shake or recovery bar. Your aim is to eat good proteins and carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar levels up, replenish muscle glycogen and start to repair any damaged muscle tissue. Later in the day you can definitely enjoy a slap up meal - you’ve worked hard for it! Just keep hydrated and try to avoid alcohol or too much caffeine.
As the week continues make sure you keep up your protein intake to continue to repair those muscles.
While foam rolling and stretching are both must-do activities around 4-5 hours after your marathon has ended, you’re probably desperate to start massaging those tired and aching muscles. But, don’t be tempted to book your favourite massage therapist or start using your massage gun too soon. Wait at least 24 or even 48 hours before starting to work on your muscles with massage techniques to give them time to rehydrate and reduce any swelling.
A few days after your marathon you can get out your massage therapy gun and get working on those sore areas of your body. By then you’ll have a better idea of what is really feeling tight and which areas might need the most work. You should seek professional help from your physiotherapist or osteopath if you’re feeling extreme pain or discomfort. They can help to diagnose any injury and provide a good rehabilitation programme.
If, however, you’re simply feeling tight and after your run then you’ll want to invest in a good massage gun - and you can read our recent blog on what massage gun to buy and how best to use it.
Finally, make sure you enjoy the enormous feeling of accomplishment this week. Whether you’ve just run your first or your fiftieth marathon it’s something to be very proud of. Enjoy your moment, look after your body and allow yourself to take a week, or even two, out to rest, recover and pat yourself on the back!
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