Post-race tips to take care of the body
With another Dublin City Marathon completed and over 20,000 runner taking part, we put together our fail safe top five ways to help you in your recovery. Marathons are no joke and really take their toll on the body in a big, big way whether you’re a seasoned runner or you’re running for the first time.
So now the hard work is done, putting time & effort into your recovery is almost as important as your pre race routine.
What happens to the body during a marathon? There’s the obvious skeletal muscle fatigue – stiffness and pain, but lesser known effects include: cellular damage, hampering of the immune system, dehydration and depletion of electrolytes. Luckily, your body has an amazing ability to recover, so here are a few tips to assist your beautiful human machine in it’s race back to recovery.
1. Cool-down immediately post race
Don’t let the elation of the finish line and a shiny medal get you distracted from the real end point of your race, your cool-down. Not only will this ease your ability to get out of bed the following morning but think of it as your ‘thank you’ to your muscles for the hard work they put in on the road.
5- 10 minutes of walking should do the trick, followed by an ice bath, cold shower, hose down with cold water, or perhaps even a dip in the ocean.
2. Hydrate & refuel post race
As I’m sure you’re all aware, your muscles just used a whole lot of energy to get you through to the finish line. The kindest thing you can do for your body right now is to refuel it with good quality stuff packed with good sugars, carbs, protein, minerals, antioxidants and electrolytes. Think coconut water (electrolytes), thick full Greek yogurt (protein), granola (carbs) and berries (vitamins and antioxidants) bananas (pure energy and potassium), seeds, nuts and honey.
If at all possible stay away from artificially coloured sports drinks and super-refined sugary foods, your body will appreciate your consideration.
3. Stretch | foam roll | heat | massage
Wait 2-6 hours post race before you stretch, massage or foam roll, this is just to allow your muscles time to replenish themselves before you apply pressure to them. Massage actually damages cells (slightly) so as to allow new cells to regenerate in their place thus promoting overall healing.
Studies have shown that the calf muscles of marathon runners during the marathon are worked so intensely (especially for those who like to run on their toes), resulting in inflammation, intense stress and even necrosis (which means cell death) in the tissues of the calf muscles, leaving it significantly impaired and weakened for up to 2 weeks post race. Bear this in mind when you stretch and massage.
Soak in a hot tub and when you’re warm stretch out the calf gently and for at least 30 seconds on each side. You can do this by standing on a step and allowing one heel to drop down with the toes still on the step, just like we do in footwork in class. You can also find a foam roller (or a rolled up towel or water bottle) and roll it under your calf, allowing as much weight as you can handle onto it.
For the first 3 days post race avoid any deep tissue foam rolling. On day 5 or 6 post race, schedule yourself a massage or possibly check in with a chartered physiotherapist if you are uncertain about any aches or pains.
This seems like an obvious one but for the sportier types, this can be the hardest thing to do. Internally, there are so many processes going on to repair from the stresses of a marathon even if you don’t feel sore. Imagine the repair process to be like an elite emergency relief team being flown in to rebuild London after a tsunami.
Studies have shown that cellular damage to tissues can last for up to 7-10 days post race (measured by the presence of certain chemicals in the blood called creatinine kinase and myoglobin.) Damage in this instance broadly means death of cell tissues in skeletal muscle and damage to myocardial tissue (yep that’s the heart). These tissues all repair themselves, but time is the key ingredient to letting the repair process happen properly.
5. Boost your immune system
Following on from the previous tip, it would make sense that if your body is so focussed on repair and recovery that it would put additional stress onto your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flu.
A suppressed immune system can also be caused by overtraining. It is said that for at least 3 days post race your immune system is compromised, which means that resting and eating nutritious foods are key to avoiding getting a cold. Make sure that you don’t skip your rest and recovery period as this could affect your longer term training goals.