For those preparing to run a marathon in the coming days or weeks, it's not too soon to start planning the recovery period. Plenty of rest, water and healthy food are among your best allies after an endurance run.
Marathon runners can lose up to five per cent of their total body weight during the race, or around four to five liters of fluids on average. To avoid dehydration and help the body replenish its reserves, be sure to drink plenty of fluids during the hours after you cross the finish line, whether you prefer water, fruit juice or sports recovery drinks. While it may be tempting to celebrate with a beer, alcoholic drinks are best avoided in the days following the race, as your liver is already working overtime to eliminate toxins.
Soothe Aches And Pains With Heat
To aid the recovery of the muscles and tendons that carried you across the finish line, don't hesitate to apply heat packs to your legs. Hot baths, saunas and warm massages are also excellent for relaxing the body and the mind after the intense effort of an endurance race.
Watch What You Eat
The post-marathon diet plays several key roles in aiding recovery. Eating plenty of protein and dairy can help the body repair damaged muscle tissues and rebuild its reserves of various nutrients lost during the race. Certain fruits and vegetables, meanwhile, can aid in the elimination of the toxins and waste produced during the intense effort. Finally, slow-burning carbs will help the body restore its energy reserves. Avoid the temptation of overdoing it after the race, as your digestive system is likely also still recovering.
Take It Easy
After months of training and hours of pounding the pavement, you've certainly earned a break. Experts recommend taking at least five to ten days off from any form of intensive exercise after a marathon, in order to give the muscles and tendons plenty of time to recover. When you decide to train again, start off slow with gentle exercise such as walking, swimming or biking. Finally, when you feel ready to run again, limit yourself to around 30 minutes per session over the course of a few weeks.
Don't Forget Psychological Recovery
Running a marathon clearly takes a toll on your body, but it can also have a significant psychological impact. It is not uncommon for athletes to experience a let-down feeling or even mild depression the day after a marathon, and it may take the mind several weeks to adjust and establish new goals. After experiencing the euphoria of crossing the finish line, it is important to identify new and different sources of motivation.
Most importantly, during the days and weeks after a marathon, be sure to listen to your body. Every athlete is unique, and the best thing you can do for your physical and mental recovery is to remain attentive to your individual needs.
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