The topic we’re going to delve into today: Marathon Recovery – What should we do after we cross the finish line and in the days following the race?
In previous articles, we’ve addressed in detail how to prepare, from the point of view of training and nutrition, for a marathon and/or long-distance test.
So, I run a marathon… but what happens next?
- How do we recover?
- When should we start training again and how?
- What should the nutrition and supplementation plan be like?
What happens to my body when I run a marathon?
In long distance tests, we put all our organic systems to work at maximum performance, and everything is negatively affected after an endurance test: the physiological, muscular, tissue, cardiac, immune system, gastrointestinal system….
The amount of waste produced by all that activity must be eliminated and we have to give time and care to the body to restore its balance.
This takes time.
So, even if it’s 3 days since you’ve crossed your marathon finishing line and you’re feeling good, your system still needs a number of days to eliminate and restore balance.
What happens to the musculoskeletal system?
After a marathon or long-distance test, there’s going to be muscle damage (small fibrillary micro-breaks) as a result of the tension the body has been subjected to, the impact on joints, the muscle tension, the intensity of the exercise.
In addition, from the point of view of energy resources, the muscle has been emptied of its deposits of muscle glycogen, its main source of energy, which needs to be replaced after the competition.
In other words, in the recovery process you need to replenish both protein and carbohydrates levels.
As a result of these fibrillary micro-breaks and damage to the connective tissue, the waste produced by the body can lead to stiffness in the following hours, as well as general inflammation.
Here’s the crux of it: Recovering after a marathon plays a massive role in the process.
What should you do just after finishing?
It’s important you take note of the following recommendations for what to do once you cross the finishing line:
Cover yourself properly
Regardless of the environmental conditions, once the competition is over, if possible, put on dry clothes that help regulate your body and temperature to avoid a sharp drop in body temperature and the feeling of cold.
Cool down gradually
Try to walk for a while, don’t sit down or stop suddenly to avoid blocking blood circulation.
Use slow, controlled breathing to help your heart rate recover.
This point is essential, considering the amount of liquid and mineral salts that have been lost through sweat.
A drink with electrolytes in addition to hydrates and proteins will help start the recovery process as soon as possible.
Don’t forget that water and mineral salts are fundamental for the proper functioning of vital functions and muscle contractions.
What to eat and drink after a marathon
This key aspect of the process will help you recover quicker and better.
It is common, after finishing a marathon or long distance race, to choose large meals with a high saturated fat content, processed foods… It may be the most appetising, but the furthest thing from a good recovery.
This happens because low blood sugar levels after an event are minimal and the sensation of eating foods with a high sugar or fat content tends to be the most appetising.
It should be noted that, during the test, the digestive system has also been subjected to excessive work: digesting while the body is subjected to high stress.
What supplements should you take?
The intake of proteins in the hours and days following the test is important to encourage the muscle repair process, as well as carbohydrates to recover muscle and liver glycogen stores.
A drink like Evorecovery, containing carbohydrates and proteins, is perfect to start that recovery process.
Preferably a shake-type drink, as it’s easily digested and assimilated (so that the digestive system doesn’t have to break down the food and the blood really goes to oxygenate the muscles and not the stomach).
In the following days, in order to optimise post-marathon recovery, a varied diet should be maintained, as healthy as possible, as well as constant hydration with water and salts.
The importance of rest
This is an essential part of a training plan, with the main objective being recovery, repair, rehydration and relaxation.
Which is why days/weeks after are for rest from the intense sessions and high training volumes.
Ideally you should take up physical activity that promotes blood flow and continues the process of eliminating waste and cleansing the body: walking, very gentle static cycling in 30-minute sessions, gentle swimming…..
Depending on each case, the ideal is between 1 or 2 weeks of active recovery before starting to run and resume more intense activity and exercise.
- It’s a good time to visit the physiotherapist for a relaxing session.
- Take contrast baths to activate blood microcirculation.
- Start static stretching.
- Rest well.
- Evans, G. H., James, L. J., Shirreffs, S. M., & Maughan, R. J. (2017). Optimizing the restoration and maintenance of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 122(4), 945–951.
- Llion A Roberts, Truls Raastad, James F Markworth, Vandre C Figueiredo, Ingrid M Egner, Anthony Shield, David Cameron-Smith, Jeff S Coombes, Jonathan M Peake (2015). Post-exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signalling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training.
- C H Joo, R Allan, B Drust, G L Close, T S Jeong, J D Bartlett, C Mawhinney, J Louhelainen, J P Morton, Warren Gregson (2016). Passive and post-exercise cold-water immersion augments PGC-1α and VEGF expression in human skeletal muscle.
- What are the Best Supplements for a Marathon? Have a look at our list.
- Click here for interesting nutrition tips for marathon runners.