Recovering after running a marathon is as essential as training for the marathon. A marathon run places heavy demands on the runner – physiologically and mentally and hence it becomes essential to rest and regenerate in order to ensure a smooth transition back into one’s normal routine.
Here are some useful tips –
The last few meters during the marathon usually see a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles, which can cause the legs to feel heavy and fatigued. Therefore it is advisable to not stop immediately after the run and engage in some dynamic cool-downs like a gentle jog or run for a few hundred meters to remove the lactic acid from the blood stream. A massage, hot-bath or sauna can also help to relax the muscles. Changing into dry clothes immediately after the run can also help feel better.
The heat generated during the long run causes loss of water from the blood stream and can lead to dehydration. Therefore it is essential to replenish the body water level by drinking adequate liquids and fluids. Liquids and fluids need to be taken in periodically and regularly in small amounts over the next couple of days, instead of gulping down large quantities of water just after the run.
The body also loses a lot of minerals and essential nutrients through sweating and water loss. Therefore, it is important to replenish the reserves of these minerals by consuming nutrient-rich foods for the next couple of days or even weeks depending on the rate of absorption, physical activity etc. Eating some snacks high in carbohydrate, sugar and salt content, immediately after the run is also a good idea to temporarily restore blood sugar and sodium content in the body. Coffee or alcohol, immediately after the race, is not advisable since they will lead to more dehydration!
It is advisable to rest well and get at least 8-10 hours of sleep. Also, engage only in light exercises like cycling, swimming or walking and light stretching for 30-40 minutes and not engage in intensive or heavy training at least for two to three weeks after the race.
It usually takes two to four weeks to recover fully from a marathon, depending on many factors like nutrition and supplements, physical activity status at work or home, mental and emotional status etc. However, it is better to keep yourself active through light physical activity instead of merely sleeping and resting the whole time!