This weekend the London Marathon kicked off (at an appropriate pace - this isn't a sprint) a summer of draining long-distance events. While the energetic among you will have finely tuned your regime to get you over the line, your plans post race might not stretch beyond a pint and cuddle with a foil blanket. Don't worry, we've got you covered.
As the personal training manager of Fitness First, Chris Ward knows a thing or two about structuring the ideal fitness plan. The following tips will help ensure you're not as stiff as a proverbial plank in the days after your event, and will help you reach your next 26 miles a wiser runner.
The post-race warm down
Don't: Collapse onto the nearest pub sofa
Do: Stretch immediately and plan a cold bath
You will instinctively want to stop immediately after the race. Rather than doing this, make sure you keep moving for a good 10-15 minutes, with some slow jogging, followed by prolonged stretches (30 seconds or more) of any muscles that have become particularly tight during the run. These are likely to be the hip flexors, calves, quads and lower back.
If you have access to a bath, a dip in cold water - or even an ice bath - will immediately reduce the inflammation in muscles caused by micro-tears resulting from the run. This will in turn aid the recovery time and reduce the resultant stiffness
The next day
Don't: Remain static, moaning about your bum
Do: Move about and try a few lunges
After a well deserved nights’ sleep, muscle fatigue and stiffness will be quite noticeable, even if you braved the ice bath. Get up and move around normally, without trying to do anything too strenuous until you’ve been upright for an hour or so. Then raise the heart rate gradually by doing some steady lunges and squats, without going to levels of fatigue. Once a little looser, repeat the same prolonged stretches as you did after the race, focusing on keeping your core strong and your technique correct.
The meal after the finishing line
Don't: Have chips and beer
Do: Work from simple to complex carbs
You will have depleted most - if not all - of your carbohydrate stores, so replenish them as soon as you can with a good variety of simple carbs (a post exercise recovery drink is ideal). Follow these up with more complex carbs shortly after – such as vegetables, with rice or pasta.
Include a source of protein in this meal too, such as meat or fish: the micro-tears in your muscles will need a protein rich intake to repair efficiently. Back this up with good rehydration (that doesn’t mean celebratory beer) so that all the transport systems dependant on being hydrated can work efficiently.
Facing the next run
Don't: Ignore your aches and pains
Do: Take it steady
Ultimately, your body will let you know when it is ready for another run. If you’re stiff and/or sore, it's an indication that the repair process is still taking place, so don’t interrupt this or you'll put your body at greater risk of injury.
Continue with light activity, perhaps with a non weight-bearing exercise such as swimming, or upper body/cross training exercise, until what will be predominantly lower body aches and pains have gone. Your first run should be short and steady, perhaps no more than 3-5 miles, simply to ascertain if your body has remained injury free - and to ensure that if any niggles do exist, you’re not 10 miles from home.
Improve for the next race
Don't: Only focus on running
Do: Train smart and ensure your equipment is in order
Most injuries arise from a combination of overused, poor equipment (typically running shoes), and an unwillingness to listen to your body. Try to incorporate different types of multi-directional training (not just forward/back movements such as running and squatting) to help prepare your body for a variety of movements. These movements will help you recover from future runs as you gain strength across all three planes of motion (forward/back – ‘sagital’; side to side – ‘frontal’; and rotating – ‘transverse’).
The average life of a pair of running shoes is 300-500 miles, depending on your weight, running technique, and current injuries. Change them regularly. Stick to ones that have served you well in the past, and never switch your running shoe make/model without consulting an expert in a specialist running shop.
Your body is your best guide. If you feel tight, act immediately, either through stretching, foam rolling or a massage. If you feel tired, shorten your run or do an alternative session – or nothing at all. If you feel full of energy, make the most of it, but don’t add more than one variable at a time to your session: you can increase your run duration, but don’t do it at the same time as increasing your run speed.
(Images: Flickr/Kyle Taylor; Shutterstock)