After training for months, your marathon is finally here. You've done your research on pre-race training; you run the marathon and finish with feeling of accomplishment, but now what?
According to Catherine Reese, MD, a sports medicine specialist with Franciscan Physician Network, there are recovery tips that you can take within 72 hours after crossing the finish line to optimize your recovery.
Try these 6 post-race recovery tips to help you recover after a marathon.
Immediately after crossing the finish line, many people will stop and sit down. Stopping quickly without cooling down makes the blood pool in the legs and causes post-exercise collapse. Continue to walk for at least 15 minutes, and if you cannot walk, lie down and have someone hold your feet in the air.
If it is cold outside the day of your long-distance race, your body temperature will quickly decrease after the race. You will need to change quickly to retain your body temperature. Have someone waiting for you with a warm dry set of clothes.
You will need some quick calories in the first 30 minutes after the race to aid your recovery. A few premade recovery drinks contain the recommended 4-to-1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. The following two recovery drinks you can easily find at the grocery store!
Chocolate milk contains the right ratio of carb-to-protein, is cheap, and helps with hydration post-race. However, it also has some cons. "Chocolate milk contains dairy and high levels of sugar, which some people should avoid. If you can tolerate it, chocolate milk can be a good recovery drink," Dr. Reese says.
Studies show that tart cherry juice can improve your recovery by decreasing blood inflammatory markers and accelerating strength recovery. To achieve these benefits, one should drink two glasses of tart cherry juice daily for five days before the race, and continue for 48-72 hours after the race.
According to the International Marathon Medical Directors Association, the key is to be in tune to your body's thirst signals. If you feel thirsty, you need to drink fluids. Your urine should look like light lemonade, not apple juice.
Studies show that wearing compression socks 48 hours post-race improves functional recovery. Wearing compression socks decreases muscle soreness and helps your legs regain muscle function more quickly.
Even though you just completed a long-distance race, you should consider doing some light exercise – a shake out run, light bike ride or hike. Plan to get yourself moving and active within 48 to 72 hours after your race.
"Soreness is going to be normal, everyone should be sore after a marathon," Dr. Reese says.
If the soreness persists or is severe, you could be injured. For minor injuries, your healthcare provider will likely recommend RICE which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Pain is your body's way of telling you to rest an injury.
Ice is a great pain reliever. It numbs the injured area and reduces swelling. This is most effective immediately after the injury. The longer you wait, the less it will help. Put an ice pack on the injured area for 10-20 minutes and then remove it for 20 minutes. You can repeat this cycle for up to 3 hours.
Putting pressure (compression) on an injury helps prevent swelling and gives support. Wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage.
Keeping an injury elevated above the level of the heart helps reduce swelling.
With RICE, you should see improvements within 24 hours to 36 hours.
Dr. Reese suggests trying the RICE method for about a week and if the injury it does not get improve or is severe, then you should see a medical professional and have an injury check. Some injuries obviously need medical attention. Obvious deformity in the bone or joint, or significant swelling and pain are signs of serious problems. Even injuries that feel like muscle pulls, strains, and sprains can turn out to be breaks (fractures). That's why it's best to get a diagnosis from your healthcare provider.
Sports medicine can benefit athletes of all ages. Whether you are training or recovering, get the facts on sports medicine. Download our free sports medicine guide.
By Ariel Anderson
Social Media Specialist