Training: How To Recover Faster After a Marathon

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What does it mean to finish a marathon? Many runners, especially novices, have inspiring ideas that help them get through training and to the finish line. And then the finish line looks like a battlefield with runners wobbling and hobbling around with pain all over their bodies and minds. The video clips of runners crawling across the finish line are glorified as something impressive and admirable. For most runners crossing the finish line also means continuous suffering from muscle soreness, ligament and tendon pain for days and even weeks afterwards, and forget about walking up and down the stairs – that means pure torture.

Are you really supposed to pay like this for the pleasure of running a marathon? Is there any way to avoid this or at least reduce these unpleasant consequences? Of course! There is simply no reason anyone should suffer such painful consequences for simply wanting to run. My clients go out or go shopping to celebrate right after they complete their marathons.

This situation has the same roots as all running related injuries do – lack of technique work and lack of adequate training. Lots of advice out there completely misses the point. Icing and other band-aid treatments don’t do much as many runners already know.

The Mechanism of the Injury

In this article I want to go over the main “injury” associated with running a marathon – the general fatigue and excruciating soreness of your entire body.

What does muscle, ligament, and tendon soreness mean? It means that all these tissues were over-stretched, over-pulled, and overloaded by your own body weight while you ran the marathon. Your body cannot handle the lengthy duration of such repetitive activity, especially with your running technique deteriorating in the process. Whether it’s gradual or rapid, deterioration still occurs and it takes effort and focus  to learn to maintain technique for whatever distance. If you watched the Breaking 2 all the way through you must’ve noticed that Eliud Kipchoge maintained his running form from start to finish. His unyielding execution of technique and focus were impressive. We’re back to the importance of technique here. Maintaining proper technique during marathon prevents injuries.

So, our muscles contract and relax. During long repetitive work muscles lose their ability to relax, and as a consequence of that, as you run, with each step your bodyweight loads, pulls and stretches these unrelaxed muscles, because the normal space/time cycle of the bodyweight loading-unloading is interrupted. This is a very simple deterioration of intra- and inter-muscular coordination with extension of these negative effects on all other connective tissues: ligaments, tendons, cartilages and bones. The soreness is just a manifestation of destruction of connection and coordination between tissues. To bring your tissues back to their normal condition and to reduce the pain we need to recover their ability to contract and relax.

Running with the Pose Method gives you a chance to avoid or at least minimize these negative consequences. But what if you are not familiar with the Pose Method or didn’t learn it well enough to run with the technique through the entire marathon?

Recommendation #1: Strength Recovery

How can you make your recovery faster and more effective? You need to learn a very simple procedure which I developed and call ‘strength recovery’. It is different from what’s called an active recovery. The common active recovery is all about restoring physiological functions. Whereas the strength recovery is all about bringing back to normal function the natural muscle-tendon elasticity complex. Muscles contract and relax and when that function is affected by the repetitive stress of running without adequate preparation, your tendons and ligaments, and consequently other tissue, are affected as well. It’s a domino effect.

So, the strength recovery concept is based on the idea of returning to a normal contract-relax cycle of muscle work. This is achieved through the use of moderate resistance exercises for the local muscle groups to restore their normal cycle. The repetitive acceptable resistive workload allows muscles to get back to their normal condition. Do it in concentric regime with resistance in 2-3 sets and allow about 20 to 30 repetitions in one set in order to get your muscles to feel the burning sensation.

You can start doing these exercises immediately after the marathon in a gym or just in a hotel room using rubber bands and StretchCordz. Begin from the most loaded muscles, such as quadriceps, then to the hamstrings. Move on to your hip area, low back and low abdominal. Don’t forget to do some exercises for your feet and ankles as well. Our strength development video program provides a good selection of exercises.

In the week following the marathon these exercises should be done almost every day, and then every other day, depending on the speed of your recovery and soreness going down. Along with strength exercises you should do some flexibility exercises and use them as a cool down portion of your recovery sessions. (here are a few flexibility routines you could follow). It’s a good idea to also run a bit with a moderate speed, maybe reps of 200m, or easy jogging on the grass or trails. You will be back to normal before you know it.

Recommendation #2: Technique Work

And at the end, I return to what I always start with – technique. Unfortunately there is simply no way around it. If you start correctly, then everything else will be built correctly. You must start with improving your technique. I put together a video training program that takes a complete novice from never having run a mile to being able to complete a marathon in three months of training. There is also one for half marathon, 5K and 10K.

It is difficult to watch runners suffer when in the Pose Method® the kind of recovery mentioned above usually takes just 2-3 days, or the longest up to a week, because of much less damage to all connective tissues to begin with, and whatever minor damage occurs it almost disappears within couple of days. Nevertheless my runners routinely use my strength recovery procedure to accelerate even this short time of recovery.

Technique is the gateway that allows you to express your physiological gifts or make up for the lack of such and still allow you to enjoy physical activity, and without it running just isn’t as great as it could be. Correct running technique prevents the typical injuries that are commonly referred to as overuse injuries. There is no such thing as overuse when it comes to using your body and your limbs for physical activity. There is however mediocre technique and injuries that come as a result of it.

With proper technique and proper training, finishing a marathon could take on a whole new meaning for you. Instead of suffering the consequences you could be enjoying the results.

Additional Recommendations

Right after the race or in the evening I recommend to take a hot/warm bath with apple cider vinegar which provides a very positive effect. This is a rather old recipe that is backed by experience of many generations. Additionally, a bowl of miso soup would be very helpful. It is often recommended for hangover in popular culture, but I recommend it to all my athletes as a recovery food after races and sometimes after training.

About the Author: Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world, as well as enjoyed 3 Gold Medals with his athlete at the 2012 Paralympics in London, UK.

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The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning and live courses making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle. For more information please contact Lana Romanov

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One response to “Training: How To Recover Faster After a Marathon”

  1. […] Staying focused and relaxed will help you handle the psychological and physical stresses associated with long distance. […]