8 Tips to Get you Back in Tip Top Shape Post-Marathon

As a runner, there is nothing worse than being in the best shape of your life, running a marathon, and then having to rest and recover and lose a bit of running fitness. Well, nothing except being sidelined with an injury and not being able to run. In marathon training we run and run and run and lift and run. We get strong! Our resting heart rate drops and we breathe easier at faster paces. We LOVE this feeling. In fact, for me, I enjoy marathon training more than the marathon itself. I love feeling invincible and strong. The marathon is fun but feeling beat up at the end is not as fun!

So how do we do this and get back to training again as soon as we can WITHOUT risking an injury? It’s all in the recovery! Here are a few of the most important ways to get back to training for your next race without being sidelined and having to take weeks off.

8 Tips to Get you Back In Tip Top Shape:

  1. Take a recovery drink that’s 4:1 carbs to protein within 15 minutes of finishing. Pick one that has branch chain amino acids to help rebuild the muscles. After the marathon your muscles are full of millions of micro tears that now need to rebuild themselves and heal. Chocolate milk is a good option if you don’t have a specific recovery drink on hand.
  2. Take a cool/hot shower. We know you stink and it will help everyone around you recover if you shower, but it will also help you! Alternate between hot and cold water. Hot water opens the blood vessels while cold water makes them smaller. When vessels open, oxygen rich blood can flow quickly to your legs for quicker healing. When they get smaller the blood quickly goes out. The vacillation keeps fresh blood always coming in. Try to avoid ice baths, research shows this is too harsh on healing muscles.
  3. Sleep! Most recovery happens while you sleep, so sleep as much as you can, especially the few days after.
  4. Walk and/or cross-train and keep moving! Although I suggest taking a week off of running; keep blood flowing with a brisk walk, swimming, or aqua jogging to help promote blood flow and healing to your legs without impact that can tear the muscles more.
  5. Although the soreness may leave in 3-5 days, this does not mean you are recovered. On a cellular level it takes a month to recover from a marathon. For the month after, light runs and not much speed can help get you healthy and ready to train for a new event without injury. The 4 weeks after a marathon is the time the MOST injuries occur. People often are afraid of losing fitness and try to add speed back too quickly. It’s ok to lose some fitness in a reverse taper. It will come back quickly when you get back to training again. If you cross train you won’t lose much at all.
  6. Try to find a good PT who can check you out before you get back to running high mileage. Often in the last miles of the marathon when you are tired running form tends to be less than ideal. As a result it can throw off our symmetry. Hips especially are likely to be rotated which can throw off muscles and lead to injury.
  7. Focus on light strength work. Lift weights, focus on stronger hips and glute muscles, and strengthen your core to support your next training cycle.
  8. Reconnect with family and friends you may have neglected the last 6 weeks of training. Make sure to not neglect your supporters, having no one waiting for you at the finish line is no fun. So go out and have some fun and let yourself be less structured. Everyone needs a break mentally and physically. You will come back stronger if you continue to nurture those who support you, and allow yourself to miss your sport a bit.
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