From your muscles to your immune system, marathons take a big toll on all different parts of the body. Some studies show it take around 2 weeks for muscles to return to their normal strength and that the immune system is suppressed up to 3 days after a marathon. Often times runners neglect to take care of their body after running those 26.2 miles, but it should be a critical element of a training program. Failing to follow a post marathon recovery plan can cause performance to suffer and cause overtraining symptoms to kick in.
Keep Moving - Immediately After the Race
Immediately after a race it is important to keep moving. Your body is still in marathon mode even though your mind wants to drop to the ground. Walk around for at 10-15 minutes after the race to help transition your body to a resting state. Drink plenty of water and eat a small amount of carbohydrates and protein, this will help your blood sugar level and repair muscle tissue.
Take a break - Days 1-3
1-3 days after the race it is important to give your body a well-deserved break. Take a hot bath, go on a walk, get a light massage, give your body time to recover. Help repair damaged muscles by eating plenty of carbs and protein, also increase vitamin C intake to help boost your immune system.
Keep it slow - 1 week
Keep workouts short and light. Incorporate low impact cross-training to increase blood circulation to help with the muscle healing process. Go on a easy effortless run to see how your body responds. If you're still hurting, continue to rest and take it slow.
Moving On - Week 2 and on
If your body feels to be almost back to normal, try easing back into your typical running frequency. However, keep the runs low effort and shorter. It usually takes 2-3 weeks to get back into training as your body recovers and returns to normal. If possible try not to schedule races sooner than 6 weeks after the marathon.
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