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Wellness Wednesday: 7 Flying Pig Post-Marathon Strategies to Keep You Running Healthy and Strong

Though I am not the first, I do want to congratulate all those who partook in the Flying Pig half- or full-marathon. What a huge endeavor. Now, why we completely breakdown our physiological system and do this to our ourselves are questions unbeknown to me.

Fortunately, the race was kind to the record breaking 39,692 participants - the most participants in Flying Pig history. Walkers and runners of all abilities were rewarded with beautiful weather from beginning to end, a fantastic crowd along the routes [as always], phenomenal volunteers who stood around for hours supporting us, and let's not forget about our legs screaming at us the following day.

Though the race is over and you have put forth months of training for this one day, you are not quite done. Recovery is one of the most important and overlooked aspects in most training programs as many focus on the short-term versus the long-term.

Taking a break from training might cause many runners to believe that their performance gains from the past few months of training might decline. Trust me when I tell you that the only thing that will decline when you skip recovery is your performance as your immune system, your risk for injury will increase, your muscles will become weaker, and overtraining increases considerably.

For other runners, the idea of taking another step forward might sound mind boggling as they uncomfortably side-step their way up and down the stairs. Trust me, I know the feeling after my second and third Flying Pig Full Marathon in 2010 and 2011. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I left the couch as I studied for finals. Since then and by incorporating a few strategies, my ability to recover has improved drastically each year.

Each individual’s recovery might be different based on previous training, intensity and fueling before, during, and after the race, environmental triggers, and so forth. Give the following strategies a try in order to advance your training to the next level.

7 Strategies to Keep You Running Healthy and Strong

  • Grab a bottle of Gatorade or water to start the refueling process immediately after you finish the race before reaching for the alcohol. Don’t just stop there though. Continue hydrating the rest of the day so that your muscles heal as efficiently and quickly as possible. A dehydrated muscle will not recover as quick as a hydrated muscle. Most likely, your stomach will be upset following the race, therefore you will want to focus on obtaining some calories via liquid form.
  • Eat something small within the first hour of finishing and try to avoid any processed foods. Focus on absorbing an adequate amount of carbohydrates and proteins in order to replenish and repair muscle tissue most efficiently. Nutrition does not stop here though. It is extremely important that you continue to focus on healthy meals the rest of the day versus processed. This is important as your body is completely depleted and will digest foods much quicker.
  • Most likely, you’ve probably got a few blisters. Head over to the medical tent after the race to have them treated. If the blister is large enough, it is best to have it drained and keep it clean. This will prevent the blister from popping on its own and become infected. 
  • Get your Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) on. SMR will help loosen tight muscles. SMR can be performed with use of a foam roller, “the stick”, TheraCane, your own hands, a lacrosse ball, and so forth. It will be best to stick with some light foam rolling or massages for the time being before scheduling a deep tissue massage. Feel free to watch my YouTube video created specifically for this article: “6+ Foam Rolling Exercises for Runners”.
  • Tread lightly and move with purpose. I have all of my running clients take the first week off from running and any strength training. Performing such activities will lead to further muscle tissue damage and put off the recovery process. During this time, they focus mostly on walking in order to promote blood flow to the legs. In doing so, blood flow will aid in healing muscle tissue quicker than if you were to lie around.
  • Rest, plain and simple. You'll find that elite runners take a full week to a month off from running after a full-marathon. The amount of damage placed on a cellular level after a marathon is so great that this is one reason why you'll only see elite marathoners perform one of two marathons a year.
  • Sleep is extremely important whether you are running a marathon or not. For the purposes of this article, sleep is extremely important as a lack of sleep will impede the recovery process. As you have broken down your muscles on a cellular level for 13.1 to 26.2 miles, sleep will allow your body to repair the damaged cells. Healthy cells will allow you to recover quickly without become injured or ill.

Start incorporating these seven tips and you will be a stronger and faster runner, rather than an injured and overtrained runner. Over the next three weeks, return slowly back to running and remember to listen to your body. If your body is not ready for speed work or long distances, don’t force it. Good luck and happy running!

- Joshua Reed is a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, and is the owner of Reed’s Wellness and Fitness Training. He currently operates space in Ludlow, Kentucky and travels to see clients at their home in the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area. With use of his bachelor’s and master’s degree, his passion for health and fitness allows him to help clients reach their greatest potential while also specializing in injury prevention and performance among runners. 

Photo via Flying Pig Facebook page