You spend months training for a marathon, obsessing over the run, changing your diet and sleep patterns. But how much time do you spend recovering, or even thinking about the recovery process?
Taking the right steps to allow your body to recover from a marathon is just as important as training for one. Your first line of defense against lingering soreness is to allow your body to rest so that you are able to adequately recover.
I like to follow the “4 R’s” after running a marathon:
Rest: Spend time getting sleep and avoiding strenuous activity. Your muscles are in a state of fatigue and need the physiological benefits of rest.
Replenish: Your body needs to be re-fueled. Form healthy eating habits that replenish all the nutrients your body lost during the race. Include fruits, healthy carbohydrates, and proteins into your daily eating habits.
Recover: Allot your muscles the time they need to recover, not the time you need to recover. Muscle strength, power, and quality of motion are compromised when your body is in a state of overall fatigue. If walking 1-2 miles tires you during this time, then your body is not ready to start running yet.
Restart: Your first attempt at a run should be three to four weeks after the race. Start with short distances (3-4 miles) at an easy pace A good stretching program will set you up for a successful recovery and injury-free return to running.
In time, your muscle soreness will go away and your body will recover. Keep these simple steps in mind during your recovery process and your body will thank you!
Varsha Seemangal, PT, DPT, MST, is a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s rehabilitation department. She received her doctorate in physical therapy from Columbia University. Prior to becoming a physical therapist, Seemangal coached high school boys and girls cross country and track and field through NYC PSAL. She is a lifelong runner and has completed three marathons, several half-marathons, and many 5K races. Her clinical interests include sports-related injuries and how they relate to musculoskeletal deficits.