Tips for Post-Marathon Recovery
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Every year, Marathon races attract thousands of runners, from amateurs to elite athletes, from all over the world. Pre-race training and conditioning are fundamental to successfully crossing the finish line, but many runners neglect to prepare for post-race recovery. The following tips will help promote muscle and joint recovery, to reduce your risk of injury and prepare you to get back on the road.
- The minute you cross the finish line and slow down, your body naturally goes into recovery mode. To help your cardiovascular system make the transition as you cool down, continue moving, slowing to a walk for several minutes as your heart rate returns to resting. Once you cool down, change into dry, climate-appropriate clothing and fresh, dry supportive running shoes, to keep your feet from swelling.
- Rehydrate and replenish your electrolytes with a sports drink immediately after your race. Thirty to 60 minutes after your race, eat a small snack, followed by a larger meal an hour or two later. It is important to continuing hydrating, and to eat nutrient-dense meals within 24 hours after the race, to restore depleted nutrients.
- About two to six after your race, warm up your body with light cycling or a shower, and perform gentle stretches. Wait at least 24 hours to have a light massage, avoiding deep tissue pressure, and be sure to tell the massage therapist that you just completed a marathon. Being gentle with your body after a race will help promote recovery without doing damage to soft tissues.
- Muscle soreness after a marathon is normal, but severe pain, swelling and dark urine can signal rhabdomyolysis, a toxic condition resulting from damaged muscle cells that cause myoglobin to leach into your bloodstream. Dark urine signals kidney damage from myoglobin, a condition that can lead to kidney failure and death.
- Icing after a race can promote muscle recovery, and many athletes enjoy a cryotherapy session, which helps remove waste and toxins from your muscle cells. An ice bath at between 50º to 60º F, for six to twelve minutes, followed by a warm shower, can have effects similar to a cryotherapy chamber.
- When you return to running, begin slowly, gradually increasing your speed and distance. Run on forgiving surfaces to reduce impact stress. Wait at least a month or two before racing again after a Marathon.
After a Marathon, it can take a full week or longer for your joints and muscles to fully recover, although the rate of recovery varies, depending on your training level. An amateur will take much longer to recover than an elite athlete. Cross-training by cycling or swimming can help you maintain your fitness level while giving your joints and muscle a break from the impact of running.
Returning to a full training schedule too soon after a race can increase your risk of injury and reduce your level of performance. Overtraining syndrome is a real thing, that can compromise your immune system, reduce motivation and prevent your body from bouncing back to its pre-race performance level.
Running Gait Analysis and Retraining at NYDNR
Whether you are a novice runner or an elite athlete, mechanical deficiencies in your gait can reduce performance and cause wear and tear on your joints. The running gait lab at NYDNRehab is equipped with state-of-the art technologies for accurately assessing your body mechanics during running. We use 3D video motion capture with force plate technology to detect and quantify gait deficiencies.
We then retrain your running gait and restore optimal movement patterns through DNS (dynamic neuromuscular stabilization), CAREN (computer assisted rehabilitation environment) and other innovative therapies aimed at restoring optimal function, so you can run faster, farther and longer.