During training, recovery is the name of the game. Post-race, it’s no different. Once your goal race has come and gone, your next objective should be to treat your body to the rest and nutrition it deserves. Whether you are rocking the proud, post-marathon hobble or feeling as spritely as ever, your body needs some post-race tender loving care. Follow these steps, and you’ll be back in tip-top form (read: no hobbling) in no time!
We all know that unseasonably warm temperatures can wreak havoc on your body’s electrolyte stores, but proper hydration isn’t limited to mid-race water stations. Hydration is a three-part production, taking place before, during, and after your race. Now is not the time to ditch the GU Brew and NUUN tabs! Instead, be mindful to consume plenty of electrolyte-enhanced water over the next few days. Why? Not only will you replenish electrolyte levels, but you’ll actually reduce muscle soreness. (Say what?) Yep, fluids are vital to flushing out the toxins that build up in your muscles during a hard effort. Plus, muscles need water to stay pliable and elastic. Dehydrated muscles are stiff and sore muscles. (No bueno.) Moral of the story: Drink up!
You just asked your body to complete one heck of a challenge, and it did! But just as you had to dig deep to complete those final miles, your body had to dig deep into its glycogen and energy stores to keep up with your determination. Now your body needs nutritional fuel to recover properly, and the key is in quality, not just quantity. Focus on power foods such as salmon, quinoa, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, tree nuts, fruits, and vegetables to provide the protein, amino acids, and complex carbohydrates you need to repair your broken-down muscles and replenish glycogen stores.
Believe it or not, you don’t want to become a permanent fixture on your couch in the days post-marathon. Blood circulation is key for muscle recovery, flushing out toxins and speeding the healing process. Break up your workday with short walks or head out in the evening for an after-dinner stroll. Some easy yoga, a few relaxed laps at the pool, or a cruise-control bike ride are also good. Just remember to keep it easy and non-strenuous.
A miracle worker. If your legs are feeling sluggish and sore overall, take the plunge and spend 10-12 minutes in an ice bath. We know. It sounds scary, but it’s worth it. You’ll be amazed by how much an ice bath can reduce soreness, swelling, and inflammation and inject your legs with the pop they’ve been missing. (Seriously.) Not ready for the plunge? Use ice packs on sore areas to reduce inflammation and accelerate healing.
You don’t have to be running to reap the benefits of compression, and pulling on your CEP socks or Zensah sleeves just may be the easiest thing you can do to reduce swelling, increase blood flow, encourage the elimination of toxins, and accelerate recovery. Wear them at work. Wear them at home. Wear them to bed. (And picture all that healing blood flow nursing your legs back to health!)
So, what exactly happens when you overwork your muscles… say, in a race, for instance? Well, the fascia covering the muscles and the muscles themselves become tight and rigid, causing stiffness and disrupting skeletal alignment. Adhesions and knots can form between the muscle fibers, creating painful dense spots—or “trigger points.” Blood and oxygen supply to the muscles is severely reduced, impairing nutrient delivery and lymphatic drainage. And the metabolic waste that was produced during your race becomes “trapped.” (Hence the “heavy” feeling in your legs.) In other words, your muscles are a bit beaten up, and the battle wounds can make it hard for them to recover on their own. The good news? Do-it-yourself massage tools such as roller massagers and foam rollers are specially designed to stretch the muscle tissue and fascia (“myofascial release”), flush out metabolic waste, eliminate trigger points, and improve blood circulation. In other words: Massage = Recovery.
Stop by any FLEET FEET to ask a Fit Professional any questions and to see all the awesome products to help you recover.