Congratulations! You’ve completed the St. Louis Rock and Roll Marathon. How should you recover? Should you run or shouldn’t you? What should you eat? Here’s my advice for you.
Immediately After the Marathon
As soon as you cross the marathon finish line, do the following:
- Grab something light to eat. You want to focus on food high in carbohydrates. Eat a banana or two, some granola bars. Keep in mind you’ll eventually eat a larger brunch where you can pack in some more substantial food.
- Do not stop drinking fluids. Just because you are done with the marathon doesn’t mean you are done replenishing your fluids. The marathon has taxed your body severely and you are probably behind on fluids. Drink up.
- Do not sit down or lie down. Get out of the finish line crowd and continue to walk for about ten to twenty minutes.
- Change into dry clothes. If you can change into some dry clothes, do that after you cool down. If you can’t change clothes, make sure to take the silver mylar cape that they hand out.
- Take a cold bath. It’s tempting to take a warm bath, but a cold bath will help your muscles recover more. If you can’t fathom the thought of taking a cold bath, a warm one will do.
- Eat brunch. Once you’re bathed, go out and have a decent brunch to start re-fueling and re-building your muscles. What should you eat? Again, focus on lots of carbohydrates and add some lean protein. Soups, spaghetti and breads, lean lunch meat are great ideas.
Evening of the Marathon
Even though the race is over and all you want to do is rest, it’s important to continue actively recovering by following these procedures.
- Walk another ten or fifteen minutes. Do not run. Please walk, because your body needs to recover, and the shock of even a light run might lead to injury.
- Stretch. Gentle stretching should follow your walk.
- Eat more carbohydrates. Dinner should consist of lots of carbohydrates and some more lean protein. Drink fresh juices and avoid alcohol.
- Get to bed early. You may have trouble falling asleep because of some aches or pains or you are just sort of amped up from all the energy, but lie on your bed or couch at a decent hour and do something that relaxes you. Along with replenishing your fluids and eating plenty of carbohydrates, getting enough rest is just as important for your recovery.
Day After Marathon
Hopefully you took the day off after your marathon. If you did, great. Take it easy. No running! Here’s what you should do.
- Walk ten to fifteen minutes. If you can get out and walk first thing in the morning would be your best bet. Do not run. Just walk.
- Drink lots of fluids. You should continue to replenish your fluids with Gatorade, water and fresh juices. If you can mix in vegatable juices, that would be great, too.
- Eat lots of carbohydrates. Regardless if your goal is to continue training for long distances or not, you should not stop eating carbohydrates. Your body needs them.
Week After Marathon
Take it easy for this week and avoid the temptation to run. It’s been proven that those who rest and do not run the week after their marathon will perform better. Besides, you are likely to injure another part of your body when you limp or run with an awkward gait from sore muscles. Rest, rest, rest.
If you are suffering from aches and pains that won’t go away after a day or two of recovery, you may need to see a sports medicine specialist to see if anything is wrong. It’s normal to have aches and pains in your legs, blisters on your toes, but chronic pain could be a sign of something wrong. Get it checked out.
Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.