Why is a marathon recovery plan important?
You may not be surprised to hear that a great deal of the injuries we see are seasonal. For us, as a group with physio clinics in Central London, the lead up to the marathon in April means that from January we get a steady stream of people who injure themselves training to take part.
If you are one of the thousands of people preparing for the marathon, then I am sure that your training programme is starting to dominate huge parts of your life. For most people their goal will be to get through the marathon injury free – irrespective of their time goals. So, what is the best strategy for making sure that that happens?
Staying injury free when training for a marathon:
There is a vast swathe of information that can be found online, in magazines and books and from the many ‘experts’ who will be willing to offer you their titbits of wisdom. How do you decide what to listen to and what to take with a pinch of salt? The answer is not that straightforward….
In terms of injury prevention then a bit of common sense can go a long way. There are again lots of marathon training programmes that can be found online from sources such as Runners World and the TCS London Marathon website itself. I’ve had a look at a few over the years and it is noticeable how they have changed, and these are the reasons why.
Stress vs Recovery
Remember when you train you are placing a STRESS on your body. The whole idea of training is that you push your body to the limits of what it can currently cope with and just slightly beyond and this forces your body to react. That reaction comes in the form of an adaptation. If we allow our body adequate RECOVERY then it will adapt to prepare you to deal with more stress the next time you train.
The problem comes when you don’t allow it adequate recovery time to go through that adaptive process. Stress after stress after stress with no recovery eventually equals injury (we would call it an ‘overuse’ injury): your body can only cope with so much-repeated stress before it starts to be unable to cope with it. Something must give and your body’s way of making you slow down and allowing it to recover – often is giving you PAIN.
More recent training programmes have encouraged a higher frequency of rest days, and this is your biggest weapon in terms of battling injury. Be sensible; listen to your body. If you allow it adequate rest and recovery, then you should be at a much lower risk of injury than if you don’t! Unfortunately, getting the balance right between stress and recovery is the most difficult thing to achieve, which is pretty evident from the vast array of differing training schedules that can be found. Find one that works for you and be prepared to be flexible. You need to cover the miles but not to the detriment of your health.
Marathon Recovery Plan: Here are my 6 top tips to faster recovery post marathon
- REST: First and foremost, the key to the first 3 days post marathon is rest – COMPLETE rest. Really, take it as easy as you can afford to. As discussed above the best healer for our body is time. We have evolved as humans over 10’s of thousands of years to be efficient at it. Sometimes however actions we take can actually get in the way of the process. STOP. Resist the urge to do a loosener run – your body will thank you for it!
- REFUEL: It’s important to put the right foods into your body to help it recover optimally. Aim for a high carb diet in the initial few days to help restore the muscle glycogen stores used during your marathon.
- REACTIVATE: After 4 days you can think about introducing some activity. This could be a very light, slow, short (no more than 2 miles) run. But it is better for you if you cycle or swim. Remember that post race soreness is a chemical process. So relieving the symptoms of that is all about increasing blood flow without stressing the muscles again too much.
- RE-RUN: In the second week post marathon, you can start to introduce some running again. But keep it light and short – between 2 and 4 miles and NEVER 2 days in a row. At this stage I’d suggest at least 48 hours in between run sessions as a minimum.
- RETURN: after 3 weeks you can introduce a longer run at the weekends of up to an hour. All other rules still apply. 2 further weeks of this should bring you nicely to a place where you are ready to compete or start ramping up your training again for the next race.
- RELAX: Last but not least make sure that you schedule yourself a massage – try and get the initial one in during those 3 post run rest days and if you are in a position to, treat yourself to a weekly massage for the 5 weeks of the recovery process.
To help you out in this we are running an offer on our Marathon Massage treatments and packages. Book with one of our expert sports massage therapists and when you quote LMD20-23 you can get 20% off a single session and, as our packages are usually discounted 15%, we will match the 20% in our package prices too! You can book our packages here.