So I’m getting into the nitty-gritty of my marathon training, and the actual running is only one piece of the puzzle. Imagine doing every single run on your training plan, only to end up injured or burnt out on race day. Of course there’s no magic potion to keep runners healthy (wish I had that!), but the truth is, training for a marathon is super taxing on the body, and focusing solely on training, but not actually recovering from the training, could lead to major challenges as race day creeps up.
You might be interested in How I Create My Marathon Training Plan
What to do immediately:
1. Ice bath
I get it–very few people enjoy sinking themselves into a tub full of ice cubes, but there’s good news–you don’t have to. Legs (or even just knees down) dipped in cold, cold water will do just fine. Doctors recommend a water temperature of “between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and immersion time should ranges from 10 to 20 minutes.” (Source: runnersworld.com) Even going for a wade in the nearest body of water will have a recovery benefit.
I used to get so sore. What changed? I bought into protein shakes after a tough workout and the difference in my recovery has been significant. Athletes like Kara Goucher had to be convinced too, and are now reaping the recovery benefits. Experts say consuming protein no more than 30 minutes after a workout can get your muscles recovering efficiently. Read this for more details on how much protein (and carbohydrates) you need to fully recover after a long run.
Later that day:
I cringed at the thought of spending money on socks. But these are soooo much more than socks. Some athletes (professionals included) even wear them to compete. Personally, I’ve worn them to race with no luck (my legs get claustrophobic!), so mine are recovery only. After my long runs, I’m not really able to have a seat and elevate (see below!) with two young kids, so compression socks help give me the recovery edge I need till I actually get to sit down! I love my orange 2XU Women’s Performance Compression Run Socks (affiliate link).
Ahhhh, elevation. I can actually see the swelling go down. Whether they’re up on the coffee table, on a pillow, or I’m fully laying on the floor with my legs resting on the wall, elevation is one of the most effective, and easiest, ways to help your muscles recover.
5. More Protein
Recovery is not a one and done deal. The protein shake gets it started, but the body is still working long after the long run is done, so keep consuming high quality protein as your muscles repair and recover.
6. Even more protein
Yep, still recovering. The day after a long run (or any hard workout) eggs are always my ‘go to’ breakfast. Usually a kale and avocado omelette gets my day started strong. Avoid being ‘rungry’ by consistently feeding your body what it needs throughout the day.
Running for 1, 2, and even 3 hours is stressful on the body–no matter who you are. So give your body the respect and rest it needs. Go easy on yourself and definitely take a day (or two!) off from running after a long run–your body will thank you! I typically follow a modified training plan from Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster (affiliate). This is my go-to book with tons of pages folded down…I talk more about it here.
8. Cross Train
Take up a low impact activity, such as swimming or cycling to fuel your active spirit while also giving your body some reprieve from pounding the pavement. Cross training also gives you the benefit of strengthening muscles not primarily utilized while running.
Edit: I also recently added the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller (affiliate) to my recovery/cross training routine and totally am loving how my muscles feel. Not just for my tight calves, but even my upper back where I tend to hold tension. Training for a marathon is a total body experience!
If you want your body to perform, give it the fuel it needs to get it done. Eat clean, natural foods rich in vitamins and minerals to keep your body firing on all cylinders during your training.
You might like my Quick Fix Chia Protein Bites
10. Listen to your body
Don’t ignore warning signs–those warning signs could be precursors to injuries that could leave you sidelined. Taking a few days, or even a week, off from training wont actually put you back too far. But not taking the time off could deter your race day goals altogether.
11. Stay motivated
If your head’s not in it, your body will follow. Be sure to remember why you’re embarking on this journey in the first place. Remind yourself of your goals and how amazing it will feel to reach them. Team up with like minded athletes, training for similar goals–commiserate and celebrate together. Focus on how far you have come and just imagine how far you can go!