The TCS London Marathon is just a few days away, and for those that are running the 26.2 mile race, the finish line is in sight.
But proudly placing your finisher’s medal around your neck isn’t quite the end of your marathon journey.
After completing such an intense physical challenge, recovery is important.
Weird things happen to your body when you run a marathon. Not only will you burn over 2,500 calories but you’ll lose up to 5kg in water weight, and you’ll get temporarily shorter.
Yup, it’s true. Runners shrink by about half an inch due to a loss in fluid in between your intervertebral discs.
Proper rest and recovery is key – not only so you can feel human again, but it’ll also mean you can get your running shoes back on a bit quicker.
So how do you give yourself some proper post-race TLC? Experts tell us how.
Warm up properly
We know, this is part of your pre-race routine, but warming up actually helps you once you finally give your legs a rest.
Avoid static stretching – that’s the type of stretching where you don’t actually move, like when you stand on one leg to stretch your quad.
Instead you need to carry out dynamic running stretches like heel flicks, lunges and high knees.
But you do need to stretch when you’re done too. Invest in a foam roller or massage gun on sore spots to help these areas recover more quickly.
Burning off all those calories means you need to replenish depleted energy sources – but it’s not an excuse to order whatever you like off Deliveroo.
Christian Allen, product expert at Runners Need, explains: ‘A combination of carbs and protein within the hour of finishing your race can help aid recovery and top up your electrolyte and glycogen levels.’
And, we wouldn’t recommend a post race pint, as it will just dehydrate your body even more. If you can’t resist, try to drink an equal amount of water – although chugging water isn’t your only source of hydration.
Foods like spinach, melon, pineapple and celery all help, and coconut water is great too.
ice ice baby
Christian says: ‘When you’re looking to recover after a long run, ice is your best friend.
‘Ice your legs as soon as you’re able to after your run. If you’re using ice packs keep them on the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes every few hours for the day or two following the race.’
And if you’re feeling really brave, try an ice bath. ‘Ten minute ice baths can do wonders to ease sore muscles, as it helps pump your blood vessels with fresh oxygenated blood and helps to flush out toxins, like lactic acid which can cause muscles to seize and cramp,’ says Christian.
Indulge in spa treatment
After running a marathon, you’re more than entitled to treat yourself – and if your budget allows, there’s some great options out there.
If you’re still in London the day after the big race, Pan Pacific London has a range of experiences designed specifically for marathon runners in mind.
Their Performance Recovery treatment tackles muscle strain and mental exhaustion, starting with stretching and mobility exercises with a dedicated performance coach
They also offer some high tech electro muscle stimulation which sends electrical pulses to dedicated muscle groups.
Then there’s a muscle enhancement recovery treatment which aids in releasing the lactic acid that has built up during the race followed by – the best part – a lymphatic drainage massage.
Robbie Leung, director of wellbeing at Pan Pacific says: ‘These treatments showcase the importance of preparation and recovery after a strenuous sporting activity.’
Try not to snooze
While you might be knackered after your run, resist the urge to nap.
Instead opt for some gentle walking to keep active and help boost your recovery process.
But once bed time does finally arrive, make sure you get plenty of shut eye. A good eight hours will allow your muscle to repair and rebuild.
take time off
Christian says: ‘It’s important to take a week or two off to allow your body to recover.
‘When you return to running keep it easy for at least a week,’ says Christian. If you’re feeling tired or fatigued or becoming more susceptible to cold-like symptoms, it’s usually a good indicator that you’re pushing yourself too hard too soon.’
Now is a good time to switch up your exercise too – swimming or cycling will keep your fitness up but target different muscle groups.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism