You may think that your training ends when the race is complete, when you have the medal in your hands, when the final whistle blows. This isn’t exactly the case….well, it shouldn’t be anyway.
All the training for an event/race takes a lot from your body mentally and physically and so the recovery phase is very important. Recovery is just as important to the body as training and can be an athletes best tool for easy improvement.
For a marathon specifically…here are a few insights of what we put our bodies through and how to recover well.
Muscular skeletal system
Muscles soreness, DOMs and fatigue are the most obvious case of damage caused by running the marathon distance.
Studies have been conducted and concluded that both the intensive training for, and the marathon itself, induce inflammation and muscle fibre necrosis that significantly impaired muscle power and durability for up the 14 days post marathon. Accordingly, it will take your muscles about 2 weeks post marathon to return to full strength.
Post marathon, the immune system is severely compromised, which increases the risk of contracting colds and the flu.
Furthermore, a suppressed immune system is one of the major causes of overtraining. A recent study confirms that the immune system is compromised up to three days post marathon and is a major factor in overtraining syndrome.
Therefore, it is critical that you rest as much as possible in the three days following a marathon and focus on eating healthy and nutrient rich foods.
How do we optimise our recovery?
The immediate post race recovery protocol can be a little difficult to plan ahead of time, so I wouldn’t stress about it pre-race.
After you cross the finish line, try to get something warm and get to your clothes. You’ll probably get cold very quickly, and while it won’t help you recover, getting warm will sure make you feel a lot better.
Try to find something to eat. Bananas, energy bars, sports drinks, fruit, and bagels are all good options.
If you can, try and have an ice bath, cold bath/cold shower to minimise the amount of inflammation in your joints. Any time from 10-20minutes is enough and is the best way to begin your recovery. Staying away from inflammatories such as sugar is also advised.
For the days to follow, warm baths and showers are advised to help relax your muscle fibres and increase blood flow.
Rehydrate as soon as you can after your race. Whether it’s been a hot or cold day, the exertion of racing will mean you’ll have sweated out precious water, minerals and electrolytes. Make rehydration one of your key post-race recovery strategies. Add in some electrolyte tablets too to help flush out the build up of lactic acid.
Tempting as it may be, don’t just stop and sit down after you cross the finish line of your race. Walk around to bring your heart rate down and to stave off stiffness. This will keep the blood circulating around your body and stop your muscles from seizing up.
A good mixture of carbohydrates, protein and a little healthy fat is good. Your muscles need replenishing with all the best nutrients.
Post event massage is administered immediately after the event or competition. Post-event massage is done to decrease muscle soreness and/or cramping and to facilitate a faster return to training after an athletic event.
Promise yourself a gentle massage to flush out lactic acid and toxins. This will be more superficial to bring the blood circulation to your muscles, increasing your range of movement and offloading the pressure around your joints.
24hrs-48hrs after the race/event you can begin stretching and using your foam roller for some general self massage relief. Due to micro traumas to your muscle fibres from repetitive movements your muscles will be sore for a couple of days so this may be too painful if you try too soon.
In the days to come, make sure you prioritise rest and active recovery. By all means keep active, but allow your running muscles and joints to recover: try walking or a completely different activity such as cycling or swimming. You won’t lose any fitness but you will allow your body to rest so you can return to running without injury or soreness.
WHEN CAN I HAVE A DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE/SPORTS MASSAGE?
First, it’s important to understand what the benefits are because they’ll help you schedule your massage session for the optimal time. Most critically, deep tissue massages improve blood flow to your muscles by stimulating the circulatory system. You’ll get an influx of oxygen-rich blood, which helps flush out the byproducts of hard exercise, and delivers fresh nutrients.
While the circulatory benefits of massage are profound, other benefits of regular sessions include: reduced existing muscle soreness, improved range of motion, and the break up of scar tissue or adhesions that can restrict the movement of your muscles. The slower, longer strokes applied with pressure will help to elongate the deeper muscle fibres that have been overloading.
After a race such as a marathon it is recommended to leave your sports massage until 48hrs-72hours after. Any time before this and you may still be too sore and sensitive to touch.
From then on, include your sports massages as a regular part of your training for maintenance purposes and injury prevention.
HAPPY RECOVERY, HAPPY LEGS, HAPPY BODY, HAPPY MIND, OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE.