irstly, congratulations! Regardless of whether this is your 1st or 21st event, each one provides a different experience physically, mentally and emotionally, getting the balance right is half the battle. So well done, you’ve crossed the line, you did it, you are a member of the 1% club, that’s less than 1% of the global population that has finished a marathon or larger ultra endurance event, thats pretty special.
Right now you probably feel a little special too, in more ways than one…. So what now? Well apart from walking around in your finishers t-shirt and proudly displaying your finisher’s medal (highly recommend) the next phase is recovery, you’ve pushed your body to its limits and you should be focussed on recovery as part of your training programme.
TOP 10 Recovery Tips after Crossing the Finishing Line
Almost immediately after crossing the finish line, you should follow these rules. It will help during the days and weeks that will follow after your huge achievement, ignore them and you will suffer with cramping, aches and pains for days or more:
1. Big smile you are on camera, get in a position well before the finish where nobody else is in the way for your big moment.
2. Get your medal - you deserve it.
3. If you are offered a silver foil blanket, take it and wrap yourself up as it helps control your temperature.
4. DO NOT sit down, keep walking for a good 15 minutes, dont just stop and slump, while gently stretching your body.
5. Eat two gels and drink a half litre (16 fl oz) of noncarbonated sports or recovery drink, chocolate milk is also great.
6. Eat bread and fruit, the more carbohydrate you can feed your muscles the quicker you will restock them with energy.
7. Get some warm clothes on and if you have them, change your shoes; flipflops are heaven.
8. Within 30 minutes of the finish, have a snack that is 80 percent carbohydrate and 20 percent protein
9. If you can soak your legs in cool water during the first two hours after the race, do so for 10 to 20 minutes
10. Schedule a massage for 2 hours after completing the marathon.
NB: The silver foil blanket doubles up as a super marthon cape... you will see people acting like superman (or woman).
And if like the finish in 2008 at the Chicago Marathon, they offer you a few beers... see point 5
When are we 'recovered'?
Recovery time or 'fully recovered' can be defined as, the effects of the race or event are no longer felt physically, emotionally or mentally and you are therefore ready for another event. It is down to many factors, some people recover in weeks, others months; especially if it’s your first event and you pushed hard on race day. You know who you are, you are probably walking down stairs backwards.
Nutrition: For the first 3 days after a your event, continue eating carbohydrate and protein rich foods in normal portions in order to replace your glycogen stores and repair the muscles, without protein your body cannot maintain the recovery process efficiently, foods richest in essential amino acids are needed. Stay well hydrated and I recommend adding a few vitamin C rich drinks in order to promote absorption of essential minerals, such as iron within the protein we eat, essential for rebuilding those aching muscles.
If you get any cravings give into them (if you cant now, when can you?), after any endurance event your body wants nutrients, its good at telling us what we need and importantly, avoid saturated fats like the plague.
This will shock you, such as meats, dairy products, fish and eggs. Although lower in essential amino acids, plant sources also contain protein: whole grains, pulses, legumes, soy, fruits, nuts and seeds as well as bread, brown rice, potatoes, fruits and vegetables, mix up some tart cherries, blueberries and raspberries with greek yogurt, twice as much protein as normal yogurt. Basically, all the normal healthy stuff we should be eating anyway, just a little more of it.
Northumbria University in England found tart cherry juice aided in muscle recovery, reducing inflammation (DOMS), lipid peroxidation and so aiding in the recovery of muscle function.
Relax: Its normal to feel completely washed out and fatigued, even a week after finishing. You’ve been mentally and physically training hard for months and in one day, you’ve gone for it, you deserve a rest your body needs it. For the first week plan to be in bed early, while you might feel great, your body needs time to heal, it does that while you sleep.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is what you are probably feeling right now in your legs and very likely other parts of the body and it will continue for a good few days after the event. Get a few full body sports massages in the first few weeks, it will be incredibly beneficial. A good therapist will know there is no need for a rigorous session in order to flush the muscles. If you can’t get to a sports massage, a gentle form roller and stretch session will help, again gentle.
Damon Voss, Physiotherapist with @MySportsClinic recommends "a gentle flush through straight after the event. Light active recovery in the pool, ice baths and compression leggins."
Activity: Don’t sit and sleep for days and weeks on end, recovery will take even longer. Get active the day after the event. 1 or 2 mile walk, cross training or bike session, any of these will help your recovery much quicker, nothing strenuous gentle exercise is needed, you are still in training, recovery training.
Keep it easy and build the mileage or time until you feel happy to get running again. I’d recommend your first easy run should be within 7 days for about 3 miles if this is your first event. Spend the next few weeks slowly developing your progress and pay attention to aches and pains post race, if needed anti-inflammatory products will help, but remain hydrated at all times and visit your Dr. should you have any serious concerns.
Mental recovery: After a long distance event, many people will experience a form of depression, the post event blues. This is completely normal. You’ve been planning, training and thinking about crossing that line for months and now you’ve done it and very likely on the way, supported by thousands of screaming supporters including friends and family, who wouldn’t be on a high after that.
How long does it last? Well that’s up to you and the best way to combat it is to get straight back into a routine, only this time it’s the recovery routine as well as looking forward to and planning your next challenge.
Like most things, recovery is common sense; listen to your body...