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Half-Marathon Recovery Guide - The Rest of Your Day

"The Rest of the Day Try to get back to where you’re staying as soon as possible to relax, shower and rehydrate. If you’re not yet completely sick of sports drinks, have one! It will provide you with some vitamins, a bit of protein (please check that protein is included in the ingredients), and some needed calories in the form of carbohydrates that will help your blood sugar return to normal. Light foods that are easy to digest—especially vegetables and fruits like oranges and bananas—also will help nourish your body and speed up your recovery, not only by providing you with calories but also with necessary minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. A short stroll will help your muscles recover and is a much smarter choice than doing nothing at all. A brief walk is almost the equivalent of the cool down that may have helped you after a shorter event like a 5K. It will help get your blood flowing while starting the process of tissue repair. After your walk, if you can arrange it, a light massage would be ideal. Just be sure to tell the therapist to be very gentle since the purpose is just to get your blood flowing and the toxins out of—and nutrients into—your muscles. After running a marathon, try to keep in mind the so-called “recovery window.” This is the period immediately after prolonged exercise, when the muscle enzymes that support glycogen production—the primary fuel your muscles relied on during the race—are elevated. Therefore, the best things to eat right after a marathon to replenish your muscles’ energy stores are similar to what you ate before. This means placing an emphasis on easily digested carbohydrates. The sooner you are able to take in these calories, the more glycogen your body will produce, and the sooner your muscles return to their normal state. During the first 30 to 45 minutes after you cross the finish line—the prime recovery window—your muscles can absorb 50% more glycogen than at any other time. Research has shown that a little protein—post-exercise—helps your muscles absorb more glycogen (at a ratio 4:1, that means four parts carbohydrates to one part protein). During this time, when your stomach may be still a little unsettled, a good choice would be a smoothie at room temperature because—it is easily digested, has some protein, and is rich of carbohydrates. For your first larger meal, consider replacing lost carbohydrates with whole-grain pasta, basmati rice, whole-grain bagels, oatmeal or other foods that are slow to digest. During the marathon, blood flow was largely shunted away from your stomach to working muscles. So give your digestive system some time to return to its normal working condition. It’s usually better to snack a little bit the rest of the day than to sit down to one large meal. Once you sense your stomach is back to normal, you might notice a desire for your favorite dessert. If ever there was a time to indulge your sweet tooth, this is it! (Have I mentioned cheesecake yet?) Of course, it is up to you to decide how much of this advice, if any, you want to take. After the marathon, it may be difficult to remember much. You may be tempted to simply grab a bag of chips and head for the couch. We all have those moments. But this could delay your recovery for days. It is easy to misjudge certain decisions after completing such a tremendous effort as a marathon. So, making the best choices during the time right after your race can be very helpful for your recovery! It not only will affect how you feel when you return to running, but also how you will feel at home and at work in the coming week. During the first evening after the race, you might be wound up and unable to sleep much. That is normal and perfectly okay. If that happens, try reflecting on your amazing accomplishment rather than stressing out because you are not able to fall asleep. Another benefit of having a massage soon after the marathon is that it may help you sleep by relaxing your nervous system (which has probably been on overdrive since the night before the marathon!)."
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