Last Sunday’s ING NYC Marathon has come and gone, but for most runners the journey isn’t over. Recovering from a marathon requires just as much mindfulness as training for one. We spoke to 44th Street‘s Abby Karpinksi, PT DPT and 56th Street‘s Sarah Tabia, PT DPT for some tips to help you maintain a balanced and replenishing marathon recovery.
The Weeks After: Rest, Flush, Massage, and Stretch
When 56th Street‘s Sarah Tabia, PT DPT crossed the finish line on November 3rd, she was gently guided by marathon volunteers to keep walking. As she slowly made it a mile deeper into the park, heat sleeves and the ubiquitous mylar blanket were draped over her shivering body. “They make you do this to flush out the lactic acid,” Sarah explained when we spoke to her about her recovery game plan earlier this week. “They ask you to walk slowly and to keep your legs moving. When the [volunteer] wrapped the warm blanket around me I remember looking up at her, just so vulnerable and cold and she put the hood over me and it was the best moment of my life.”
Running 26.2 miles certainly takes it’s toll on the body. According to a study cited by Competitor.com, “both the ‘intensive training for, and the marathon itself, induce inflammation and muscle fiber necrosis that significantly impaired muscle power and durability.’” This means that taking the time to rest and recover your muscles before returning to training full-time is absolutely necessary.
Sarah’s recovery game plan for the days immediately following the marathon made rest her first priority. “First and foremost I did no running for at least a week. People who love running typically want to get back to running as soon as possible, but I was in full recovery-mode all week.”
44th Street‘s Abby Karpinski, PT DPT, who along with 16th Street‘s Jason Kang, PT DPT and Lisa Yirce, PT DPT, volunteered at the marathon medical tents last Sunday, also recommends mixing in a little gentle cross-training (walking, biking, elliptical) to continue to flush out the lactic acid that has pooled into the muscles.
“10-20 minutes of light cardio or elliptical a few times a week is all you need during your recovery period. I also tell my patients to get up every hour or so, especially if they return to a sedentary job immediately after the marathon. Being idle is bad for your muscles so you’re going to want to move around regularly,” advises Abby.
Both Sarah and Abby also recommend a soft massage from a licensed massage therapist after a day or two of rest from the marathon.
Says Sarah, “I got a massage on the Tuesday after the race with Laura Mirabella and it was incredible. I noticed that my walking was significantly better after that. She worked on my legs and my lower back and that helped a lot, because before that I was actually limping.”
Make sure to let your massage therapist know you are recovering from a marathon. Your massage therapist should avoid any deep tissue work, and will instead gently roll out your muscles to help you with your range of motion and soreness.
Finally, Abby recommends constant gentle stretching to keep your muscles loose and from spasming. For this, she highly recommends consulting a physical therapist first in order to learn proper form. “While there’s no such thing as too much stretching, there is such a thing as over stretching. If you stretch too far or pull too hard you’ll injure yourself,” cautions Abby. “Daily stretching is vital, but make sure you’re being good to your body. You’re asking a lot of it by running a marathon, so you need to be good to it in return.”