Hello! I ran the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon this Sunday. It was fun, hard, sweaty and awesome all rolled into one. I’m training to PR later this year so this was a training run for my long term goals. Running a half marathon or marathon as part of training only works if you focus on recovery after the race.
Here is how I’m recovering after the LA Marathon.
Rehydrate and refuel
Immediately after the race I sipped water. I usually try to check the color of my urine to see if I’m obviously dehydrated but the bathroom in the post-race party was super dark and I couldn’t tell. So, I just listened to my thirst and hunger cues since that’s all I had to go on. I wasn’t hungry but did eat something small to get in some much-needed protein and carbs to refuel my muscles. I really tried to focus on listening to my stomach and my body in general. If I’m dehydrated I’ll usually get a headache. If I eat too much right away I might upset my stomach. I have my post-race preferences pretty figured out at this point, but always check in with myself to be sure. I had this sea salt brownie a few hours later. It was a delicious ‘victory lap.’
Rest and assess
After the race I changed out of my sweaty clothes and sat down. Ahhhhhh! That felt good. It’s funny how the most simple things feel amazing after a long run or race—fresh, non-sweaty clothes, the chance to sit down, a cold water…
Running for 13+ or 26+ miles is hard on your body, no matter what your pace is. This is hard on your body and can also pump up your adrenaline so I try to be easy on my body the rest of the day and let myself come down from all the excitement and physical stress on my body. I was invited to a post-race brunch near the finish line. I sat down and let my body unwind. I hung out with a cup of coffee because I was cold and chatted with some of the other runners. I checked in with myself to assess:
- Hunger level: I wasn’t hungry but needed something to refuel my muscles.
- Thirst level: I was thirsty, but also cold so that told me to get a hot coffee.
- Body signals: Is anything hurting? Anything sore or achy? If an injury feeling like it’s flaring up, do the RICE method and be proactive.
- Emotions and energy: Sometimes after a race I’m super pumped up, other times I’m kind of drained emotionally. Checking in with yourself helps you figure out what you need.
Compression or elevation
After hours and hours on my feet I try to either wear compression socks to help keep all the blood from making it’s way down to my lower legs and feet. If I can, I sometimes opt to put my legs up against a wall (at almost a 90 degree angle) or elevate them with a huge stack of pillows for five to ten minutes. It just makes me feel better as I imagine all the blood and lactic acid that has been dripped to my toes slowly find its way back to circulating around my body with a little help from gravity. This also forces me to stop and lay down for a little bit.
Getting a ‘real’ sports massage is a great way to give a little love to my tired muscles. It’s indulgent and relaxing, which feels great and is well deserved after a race! During the massage I pay attention to any area that feels particularly tight or sore. I take note if one side is tighter or hurts more than the other. These can be warning signs of a potential injury. If a certain area feels bad I’ll try to give it a little extra attention with stretching, ice or self massage later.
Other Options: Epsom salt bath, gentle stretching or foam rolling.
Run easy and assess my body
It’s very important to pay attention to my body the first run after a race. I got a bad injury a few years ago that didn’t show up until my first run after a marathon. After a few days of rest I go for a short run with no music/podcasts or watch (also called running naked). Running ‘naked’ means I can focus on how my body feels and if it’s telling me anything. I am not distracted by my pace or music so I have to acknowledge if my legs are still very tired and feel heavy. Or I am able to assess if I’m recovering quickly and feel good. Either way I let my body tell me how it feels after a race.
I also do a full body check in after a race: After 10 minutes of easy running start at the top of your head and slowly go down your entire body. Stop at each major part and ask yourself, How does this feel? Is it sore? Is it tired? Do this for your Head, Neck, Shoulders, Upper Back, Chest, Arms, Abs, Lower Back, Butt, Hips, Quads, Hamstrings, Knees, Calves, Shins, Ankles, Feet, Toes.
All this information can be used to plan training going forward. Run smart. Run happy!