The marathon or other distance running race can take a significant toll on an athlete’s body especially if it’s the first major race of the season or when attempting to set a personal record. The legs will take a lot of punishment in addition to the feet (blisters, mid-foot pain).
The pain in the quads, calves, neck muscles, lower abdominals can be substantial with a first time marathoner or and athlete who pushes the pace to the absolute maximum limit. There are many methods of recovery, below are my top 5.
1. After finishing the race if possible drink a recovery drink with at least 50% protein. It will help substantially if you can consume it within 30 minutes of finishing. Coordinate with a family member or friend to have it available at the finish line.
2. If possible, I know it can be a bit uncomfortable but fill up the tub in your hotel or home and soak the legs in cold water. An ice bath for just 5 minutes can have significant recovery benefits. It helps to reduce all the swelling.
3. Plan on some walking later in the day (race day). Don’t just sit around; keep the muscles moving slowly to eliminate some of the lactic acid buildup.
4. Walk or jog slowly for 20 minutes the day after the marathon. The other alternative is some easy cross training on a bike.
5. Swim 30-40 minutes using a kickboard and just flushing the legs with easy kicking.
Of course there are many other recovery techniques, experiment and find out what works best for you. In many cases an “active” recovery versus no exercise at all can help with the muscle soreness and a quicker recovery time.