DR. MITCH: So You Want to Run a Marathon

Everyone talks about how to train for a marathon or triathlon, but how you recover can be every bit as important. Here are some tips:

1. Don’t Stop when you cross the finish line! I know you’re exhausted but you need to gently keep the blood flowing and let your heart rate and breathing slow down to normal gradually. So after you cross the finish line, plan to gently walk for the next 5 – 10 minutes.

2. Don’t Get Chilled. Keep your body warm. If your clothes are wet and you can change them, do. If not, cover yourself loosely with a blanket. You want the body to stay at body temperature and not get chilled. You can  also consider putting on some compression socks to help with the recovery process.

3. Replenish. You need to replace the calories, protein, electrolytes and liquid that you’ve used up within approximately 45 minutes of completing the race. You can drink chocolate milk, or any power drink but don’t forget to eat a protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat snack to start to replenish your stores. Pick something that you can easily digest and have tolerated well in the past. Take it slow and easy. I suggest no alcohol until you’re properly rehydrated. Within the first half hour of finishing the race, you should be able to pee if you’ve had enough to drink.

4. Take it easy. The day after the race is a rest day. Walk, do easy things. Cross train over the next week or so. Swimming, low resistance biking, elliptical, yoga are all good. Don’t push. Just keep the muscles moving and happy. You can start to train the week after the race. Start gradually. Same with weight training. Nothing for the first day or two; then body weight; and then, a gradual return to your usual routine. Muscles need a chance to rebuild. Similarly, gentle massage or foam rolling can be ok. Do not go for deep or vigorous massage in the first few days as your hurting muscles need time to recover first.

5. Listen to your body. If something seems out of wack or different from your usual recovery, don’t ignore it but follow up. Preparing before a marathon is important but so is recovering if you want to keep your body safe.