Head Coach of RunGenie, Ranjini Gupta talks about the importance of recovery after a marathon
To run a marathon, and run it well, you need to train for it. A well-rounded training plan will cover key aspects like speed workouts, long runs, strength and conditioning, diet and hydration. You name it you’ve worked on all these aspects. After all the hard work has been done, when you toe the line, it’s your time to put all that you did in training to practice. And you did great! 26.2 miles clocked to perfection. You are elated to wear that finisher medal and flaunt it with pride.
So what next……..
The recovery phrase which is another crucial aspect of training for a marathon.
Many a time, so much impetus is given to training that recovery is overlooked. For some, recovery would mean doing nothing and simply relaxing on the couch while some others would probably get back to their runs even before their bodies have fully recovered. While this may work for a few weeks, with intensity and mileage, niggles appear and before you know it, it grows into a fully blown injury. The key is to understand your body. Each individual is different and responds differently to training as well as recovery. Some recover faster, while some people may take a tad bit longer. Be patient, after all this body has undergone so much to get you to your goal. Now it’s time for you to reciprocate.
In the words of exercise physiologist Dr. Carwyn Sharp, “Recovery following a marathon is critical aspect of any training plan, but despite its importance is often neglected. This need for appropriate recovery for running 26.2miles is obvious with aching muscles and stiff joints after sitting, but athletes also have damage and stresses in many other systems and tissues of the body they may not feel, such as: micro trauma to the bone, ligaments and tendons, depressed immune system, damage to the heart, red blood cells and gastrointestinal system. In order to recover your health, avoid sickness and injury and maintain the gains from months of training, you should employ nutritional, training and passive recovery method in the 2-4weeks following a marathon”.
- It would be a good idea to do an easy 30 to 40 min run-walk on a day (or max two days) following the race day. The whole idea of this exercise is for you to do a body scan and listen closely to the whispers indicated by the body. There should no pressure of distance or pace in this session.
- In the same week, ensure you invest a bit on yourself and go to that physical therapist or chiropractor to get some releases done. You would have given it your all in those last few miles before the finish and there is a good possibility that your biomechanics could have been compromised. A good practitioner would be able to help you take care of little niggles which you might have incurred during the race or felt it during the body scan in your recovery run.
- Catch up on the sleep, that you would have lost during the training period. Studies have shown that sleep helps improve an athlete’s performance because growth hormones that stimulate growth and repair of muscles and bones are released during this period. The quality of sleep becomes an important aspect of recovery. Try to hit the bed early as it is believed that hours slept between 10pm to 5am is most beneficial to the body and mind.
- Hydration becomes another key factor. Most runners during their training period will take care of the hydration very closely however the same importance needs to be given during the recovery period as well. Your urine is a good indicator of whether you are hydrated or not. A clear to pale yellow indicates you are hydrated while a darker color indicates you are less hydrated.
- While it is still alright to indulge a bit post the training season, the more nutritious food you give your body, the faster it will heal and recover for the next season. Clean eating habits and having a balanced meal should be a way of life and not just when you train for races. The key is being consistent at it.
- Work on general strength and mobility along with cross training (either cycling and/or swimming) before signing up for the next race or getting into the next season. The off season is a great time to work on these aspects. This will help you stay injury free and give you time to work on those imbalances before the next season. Any improvement in your basal strength level, hip mobility, ankle mobility will directly translate into better timings the coming season.
As mentioned earlier, one size fits all does not work either with training or recovery. You need to be aware and sensitive to the needs of your body. The more prudent you are in taking care of your recovery, the easier it would be for you to get into the new season refreshed and rejuvenated.