What to do and not to do right after finishing a marathon, writes Nandini Reddy.
Celebrate because you just finished a marathon, one of the best endurance challenges. Once you cross the finish line there are a few essential things you need to do in order to ensure that you do not hate yourself for running the marathon. It is best to have a game plan for recovery ready so that you are not regretting running the race tomorrow.
Don’t collapse to the floor
It might seem like an appealing idea to just drop to ground once you are across the finish line because legs must already be feeling like lead. But if you do not do that you will be doing yourself an enormous favour. When you just sit down or lie down once the race finishes you risk stiffening or pulling your muscle. As tempting as it might be, try and resist the urge until you have finished stretching. The best way to recover is slowly waking around the finisher’s holding area as it helps clear the excessive lactic acid that has build up in your muscles during the race.
Also since your body was working in the maximum heart rate zone, its never a good idea to abruptly stop because this will cause blood pooling in your legs and your blood pressure is also likely to drop. You will most likely feel dizzy or light-headed.
Drink, Drink, Drink – only Water
The moment you finish the race, your top priority should be to re-hydrate yourself. You can use running salts tablets also an active way to recover along with water. The amount of fluid you need depends on the length of the race, the weather conditions and how much fluid you drank during the race. If you want to know if you are hydrated well then just go for the old urine colour test. If your urine is dark yellow then you are dehydrated.
Stretch it out
Do static stretches that focus on your quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. Hold the stretches for 6 long inhales and exhales. These stretches will promote better blood flow and help recover your muscles quickly. You are less likely to experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) if you stretch well.
Get rid of the sweaty clothes
Your clothes will be soaked in sweat post the race. If you have someone meeting you at the finish line, ask them to carry a t-shirt for you. The cold sweat evapourating off your body might reduce your body temperature quickly and cause you to catch chill. Apart from that you might not make for great company in your sweaty clothes.
Use compression socks
Compression socks might look dorky but they are great for preventing blood pooling in your legs. Wear the socks up to the knees and you can keep them on for the rest of the day. Take them off while going to bed at night. They are great to prevent swelling and reduce lactic acid built-up.
Don’t load the fats
While you run your stomach is the last place that gets blood supply as its not working at the time, so avoid fatty food that needs more effort to digest right after the race. The key for recovery is to get carbs into your body within 60 mins of finishing the race. You can try liquid carbs like a chocolate milkshake or a fruit juice instead of trying to chow down a sandwich. Also within two hours of finishing the race you need to have protein. It may be in the form of a whey protein drink instead of a steak.
Once you are back home, give yourself a cold or ice water bath depending on the weather you were running in. You can add epsom salts and soak you feet to relieve the stress. This will help relax your muscles and prevent any further damage.
Listen to your body over the next few days and do not stress or strain it. Take light walks to ensure that you keep moving and don’t dedicate yourself to the couch but high intensity exercises can be avoided.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.