Inspired by several of my friends who ran the London Marathon today, here are the top 7 ways to recover from a marathon.
There is no magic food or supplement that will cure muscle soreness or DOMS (Read How to Relieve Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS). The amount of trauma, especially in your legs and the pounding of 26 miles to your quadricep, will win against any food or supplement.
But you have to eat, right? So you might as well eat all of your favourite foods and make sure you are eating enough protein and carbs. I prefer real food over powders if I can control my environment. (I won’t pack sashimi in an ice pack before my workout as protein shakes are much more convenient)
Based on personal experience and sport science, protein and Vitamin C are the two best ways for recovery of this nature. Fish oil is also widely regarded as a great anti-inflammatory. So if you are into pills and powders, look at protein shakes, Vitamin C and Fish Oil, in that order.
Low-Impact or No-Impact
I recall reading an article on how you need one day “off” for every Mile you race. That’s 6 days off for a 10K or 26 days off from a full 26 mile marathon. That being said, you should keep all impactful exercises, including running, to a minimum.
Try walking? Or swimming, or even Elliptical in a gym. Any exercise that prevents pounding on your legs to aggravate more damage.
The secret is you have to move, and I think walking is one of the best forms of exercise. Besides, we all have to travel from Point A to Point B (especially London). So why not add it to your routine? Why not walk from Waterloo station to East Central London?
Just remember walking one mile is the same amount of calories burned than running a mile. The walking may take 20 minutes, compared to running in 8 minutes. Or 4 minutes. It’s the same thing, just longer in time.
Low Intensity Static Stretching or Microstretching
You’ll probably feel fine the day after the marathon, but two days later (i.e. Tuesday) will be your worse day, as that is when DOMS sets in.
There is pending research that Microstretching is beneficial for DOMS, as well as improve your range of motion. I’m not talking about aggressive stretching with a goal of reaching places you never reached before. I am referring to gentle stretching without pain or discomfort.
After all, you are already in a world of hurt!
Topical Creams and Gels
Topical Arnica Montana (not Hannah Montana) and Traumeel are homeopathic topical cream you can use.
I’ve covered the benefits of REgel and I personally use this. It’s a non Camphor or Menthol based gel, which is good because both Camphor or Menthol can cause blistering when used with heat and bandages.
Don’t expect instant results, but the short term relief may be all you need to get you going through the day.
The Dreaded Ice Bath
The science is now debatable, but if the runner feels like it’s helping shrink the inflammation and trauma, then that placebo is better than nothing.
Just remember recovery is still your main priority, at least for the next 26 days!
Put Your Feet Up
Now is a good time to brag about your achievements and elevate your feet up on a chair. Gravity is your enemy (especially for wrinkles!) so prop your legs up and reduce the swelling that’s pooling in the legs.
Watch that Massage
This is something you should avoid, at least temporarily as there is enough trauma and inflammation in your legs. If you go for a massage, work on the lower back, glutes and hips; and be gentle on the legs, especially the quadriceps. No sense irritating those inflamed muscles.
If you really want a massage for the legs, make sure it’s very superficial to work on blood flow and recovery. No deep tissue massage, at least not yet.