Your Post-Marathon Recovery Tip Sheet | Keck Medicine of USC

Your Post-Marathon Recovery Tip Sheet

You may feel a great sense of achievement when you are crossing the finish line of a much-anticipated marathon, but there are several things you need to do after you get home (besides taking a shower).

Recovering from a race is as crucial as training for the big day, especially if you like to keep in good shape, and perhaps, get ready for another race soon. Make sure you pay attention to these post-marathon tips after you replenish your body and get some rest.

1. Get off the couch

It might be tempting to just completely give in to your sore muscles and collapse like a zombie in front of the TV set for hours. Don’t. The more you stay on the couch, the more your muscles will get tighter and sorer. It’s important to loosen your muscles by taking quick walks around your room every half hour or so. Yes, it might hurt a bit, but it will shorten the recovery time.

2. Ice is nice

Never underestimate the healing powers of ice. If you’re brave enough, dive into an ice bath. You can also ice your knees, shins, ankles, feet, back or pretty much anywhere you feel pain. Cold therapy will make you feel better since it reduces blood flow to the sore areas to reduce the swelling. This will also slow down the pain messages being transmitted to the brain.

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Eric Tan, MD, assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a foot and ankle specialist at Keck Medicine of USC, explains: “An ice or cold water bath for 10 to 15 minutes will help to constrict the blood vessels in the legs which decreases metabolic activity and reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. This will help to ease inflammation and reduce muscle soreness.”

3. Refuel and revive

After running a tough marathon, your body has depleted its food and water resources, so you need to drink lots of water or chocolate milk to rehydrate and get back all the nutrients you need. Research has shown that chocolate milk contains an ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio, essential for refueling damaged muscles and helping with the workout recovery process. It’s best to stay away from many of the sports drinks on the market since they are often loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners that damage your body. H20 is the way to go. You should also stick with food that is high in protein and antioxidants to help heal your muscles. Eating Greek yogurt with granola, blueberries and bananas will help relieve the stress and replenish your muscles’ energy.

4. Let your body heal

Getting lots of rest after running a marathon may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many athletes refuse to listen to their bodies. It will take a few days to fully recover from your average marathon. It’s important not to be tempted to get back to your running routine immediately. If you don’t give your body enough time to recover, you may experience more injuries further down the line.

5. Easy does it

After their rest period is over, some marathoners think they can go back to the workout routines they had prior to the big day. However, just because you feel okay doesn’t mean you can strain your muscles again. It’s best to start out with fewer miles and slowly work your way back up. Throwing in some mild cross training is also a good idea. An easy bike ride or a brisk half-hour walk may be all you should do during the first couple of weeks after your marathon.

6. Skip the hard stretches

Before you start your light post-marathon workouts, it’s best to skip the stretching. Stretching soft tissues while they’re sore and in a delicate state puts them at risk for slight tears. You can focus on calves, Achilles tendons, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes, but limit yourself to a brief, easy session no longer than 10 minutes.

Sometimes it’s tough to tell an acute injury apart from general soreness. If the pain and soreness persist, make sure you see a sports medicine professional. Schedule a visit with your primary care physician to discuss optimal workout levels and healthy diets to go with your workout routine.

by Ramin Zahed

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