Hi friends! I hope you had a great weekend.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the lessons learned from marathon training, which talked a lot about fueling and how I trained for the race on the front end. But, I also thought it would be appropriate to discuss the importance of recovery as well. Without proper recovery and nutrition, our bodies can’t bounce back as quickly or we run the risk of being injured or overtrained.
This post is very timely as I am just recovering from being sick for a week. I exercised one time in the past week, and I ate alot of simple carbs and sweets – aren’t carbs what we all crave when we’re sick? But the thought of exercise.. I just couldn’t think about putting any additional stress on my body. I’m finally on the tail end of this cold, but like many of the points below, rest, recovery and sleep is how I beat it.
I have a fun giveaway for you at the end (one of my favorite recovery tools!) but let’s go through my favorite ways to recover from a long distance race. I’m linking up with Hohoruns and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap, Running on Happy, Suzlyfe, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs for the Coaches’ Corner, and Nicole from Fitful Focus, Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama, Michelle at Fruition Fitness and Jen from Pretty Little Grub for Workout Wednesday!
It took me a good three weeks to recover from my marathon. When we race long distances, we are pushing our muscles, bones, tendons and body to the max. Running a marathon, or really any race, is stressful on the body. There’s constant inflammation happening. One study has shown that it can take up to two weeks for our muscles to return to full strength. So, with that being said, you can’t expect to turn around and race the next day or even the next weekend without allowing those muscles to return to full strength.
While most often, our muscles just need time to recover, there are also other practices I like to incorporate to speed up recovery.
Foam rolling and using the stick are great for targeting certain sore areas. For example, I’m usually most sore in my hamstrings so I love rolling over them. However, last spring when I had some hip issues, these helped too. When there is a lot of stress and inflammation in the muscle, these are great for breaking it up (kind of like a massage does). You can apply as little or as much pressure as you’d like.
Sleep and Rest
Did you know that sleep is so important to recovery? Sleep clears our mind, rids the brain of toxins and wastes, This Ted Talk is great at explaining it.
After a marathon or intense/long race, our immune system is weaker. This speaks even more to the importance of sleep and rest to help our bodies, muscles and immune systems recover.
Walking still allows blood to reach your muscles without putting stress or strain on the body. Gentle walking, even shortly after a race, helps bring nutrients to our sore muscles and helps our muscles recycle wastes and byproducts. Some people say a gentle, light jog is okay for the same reasons, but I stuck with walking for the first week or so.
Yoga and Stretching
There’s a great deep stretch for athletes hot yoga class that I love at my local yoga studio. It helps you get into those deep poses and release toxins. This all helps to stimulate new, oxygenated blood to those muscles. Pigeon pose has come to be my favorite. Often times I’m so tight and I just need a good hour of deep stretches to release some of the stress.
Eat and Stop Worrying About Calories
The nutrition part is really part of my specialty.
Give your body what it craves! You worked hard, you depleted your glycogen (stored sugars), you broke down your muscles… if your body wants sugar and refined carbs, then have those until you don’t want them anymore.
Of course, it’s important to focus on nutritious foods, too. Like Vitamin C rich foods (oranges, broccoli, red pepper, dark greens) since it’s an antioxidant to help deal with the oxidants that come with running. And blueberries, for their antioxidant properties and ability to reduce muscle damage. Also, iron rich foods, like meats, dark greens, legumes, and soy to help increase oxygen flow through your body and to your tissues. Potassium rich foods like potatoes, bananas and squash, for their electrolyte properties. You can see a more exhaustive list here.
Tart Cherry Juice is also pretty potent for helping to decrease inflammation. It helps increase our body’s total antioxidant capacity, meaning room for more! Studies have shown that those who take tart cherry juice have lower inflammatory markers in their blood.
Ice or Ice Baths
Though these aren’t my favorite, the chilling temps are great for reducing swelling and helping with inflammation. By constricting blood vessels through cold water, it helps deliver fresh oxygen to your muscle cells. This can help with repairing muscles and tendons as well.
Epsom Salt Baths
These are probably my favorite. While ice baths are great too, I find epsom salt warm baths much more enjoyable, especially in the winter weather. The epsom salts dissolve into magnesium and sulfate, both of which are easily absorbed through the skin. Epsom salt baths can help regulate electrolytes and help decrease inflammation.
I have been using San Francisco Salt Company Epsom Sport Salts for the relaxation and to soothe my aches and pains. I woke up the day after last weekend’s speedy half marathon with really sore calves. So, I downloaded a podcast and just soaked in epsom salts. I took a bath the next day too, and my calves felt a million times better. You just add 2 cups into your bath water. The salts will dissolve quicker if you put them under running water.
Anything that has been around for hundreds of years has to be onto something, right?
This may be reading, light yoga or walking, taking a bath, lighting a candle, journaling, talking to loved ones, going to a movie, star gazing, etc. Anything that relaxes you is important for balancing your hormones, managing stress and keeping you happy. While you can’t necessarily control your inflammation levels, this is how you can manage your external stressors and cortisol levels.
Your Turn For a Giveaway!
And now, San Francisco Salts and I are giving away a bag of Epsoak Sport Epsom Salts to promote stress-relief and relaxation throughout the holiday season!
How do you recover from something stressful?