Caring for Your Body After a Marathon

I just finished the Chicago Marathon recently and I am so amped up from running a marathon! I also know some of you may have recently run a marathon & are in a similar position as me... we are all twiddling our thumbs, looking out the window asking, "When do I get run!? When do I get to RUN!?" Hehehe, am I completely owning the mutual feeling we are all going through?


I want to talk specifically to marathon runners (or ultra runners!) about what we should do after a marathon to really support and care for our bodies.





When you finish running a marathon, you have to realize that even if you were well trained for it, even if your nutrition was spot on, your hydration was excellent - the marathon is an amazing human feat!! I don't think we really think about this because we are all a bunch of weirdos who hang out with runners, our whole entire Instagram feed is runners, our Facebook communities are filled with runners and everyone we know has ran a marathon, ran an ultra, is running 3 marathons, runs marathons in their sleep. So for you... your marathon may seem very normal. But to your physical body ... what you just did when you ran that marathon was INCREDIBLE!! You are incredible! I want you to literally take your hands and clap them together and celebrate yourself!


"How much time do I need to recover?"


Your body needs around two weeks to fully recover from the stress of a marathon. Wowzers... I know. That's a long time to go without running! But remember - Running a marathon is an extremely huge stressor to the body. I'm not saying that to scare you, but when we run we create "creatine kinase," which is basically a marker of damage in the body, we want to be cautious with the activity that follows in the following days. You ripped up some muscles when you ran that marathon! Sometimes, if you didn't hydrate well enough, there So we really want to realize that even if you feel like it's not a big to run a marathon, even though everyone you know might be a running marathons, ultra marathons or half marathons this was a really big stressor to the body.


"So when can I start running again?"


So here is what we want to do in terms of training, a lot of people ask me when can I start running again? During the first week after the marathon, I would love for us to just focus on RESTORATIVE motion. That may mean napping, yoga flows, stretching, rolling or a walk. Remember walking? Take some time to walk! Put a podcast on, go through some of my old IGTV's as you walk and enjoy this simple, gentle movement. We have recovery happening & your nervous system may be out of whack after a marathon. You need time to chill.


So I want you to take all this time you would have been lifting weights and doing runs, and I want you to start walking, meditating, doing some gentle yoga flows, some gentle stretching, go get a massage, sit with your theragun. I want you to literally sit and do relaxing, restorative movement or care.

Even upper body lifting we are still damaging muscles and creating more creatine kinase. We don't need to do that right now, there is enough cellular damage for your body to repair from race day. If you want to do things that are good for your nervous system instead, like deep breathing or yoga or doing progressive muscle relaxation or go get a massage, that's a much healthier & constructive idea! If you want that movement in (believe me I understand!), focus on walking. But please do not lift or run this week!


Now when we get to week two, having some gentle running incorporated back in is safe to do. For example, run/walking or slow and easy short runs during week two is a-okay.





"What if I'm running another marathon soon after my first one?!"

Some of you might be sitting there and you are like, "Serena, I have another marathon to run!" Listen, these two weeks post-marathon is not the time to get back into heavy duty training. You need to recover first and foremost in order to successfully and healthily get to your next marathon. So even if you have another run that you are training for, please do not jump right into exercise. Let your body relax these next two weeks. You are not going to lose fitness - you are going to recover. Rest is training too! That is so important! It is such an important thing for us to master as athletes who want to be running for the rest of our lives.


"How long can I keep eating the "fun" post-race, celebratory food?!"


So let's talk about fueling during this week after marathon. You may be saying, "We just talked about how we are not running a whole lot of miles, we are not lifting heavy weights, we are not doing any intense movement and yet, Serena, you are telling me we are eating MORE for recovery?!" And that might feel really scary. It's really important for us to remember that our body is still actively rebuilding muscles, repairing oxidative damage & likely has elevated energy needs from the race.


In Food Freedom Fit Fam, food freedom athletes know all about how to create a balanced plate that is going to have enough protein to support muscle protein synthesis (which is a fancy way of saying rebuilding muscle). We need adequate carbohydrates because carbs provide the stimulus to support that healing and recovery and repair of our muscles. We also need fiber to keep ourselves fuller longer. Its really important if you feel hunger this week to honor that hunger, instead of restricting because you're reducing movement. I'm telling you, "YES, YOU NEED TO EAT!" Your body is still repairing and recovering. So back to our question about celebratory foods. When you practice food freedom, you don't label foods as good, bad or celebratory or not celebratory. There is always unconditional permission to eat food. Whether it is cake or cookies or broccoli or salad. All those foods are the same and food freedom athletes use the "four question framework" to make sure that they are eating foods that are going to make them feel good in their body.





"How do I balance my plate?"


So whether you are post-marathon or not it doesn't really change the approach we are taking when we are eating our foods. We should always be incorporating a mixture of foods that make us feel good. Sometimes what makes me feel good is ice cream and sometimes it is salad. And I know that because I have unconditional permission to eat all these foods that I'm always going to be living in a balance where I am choosing the right foods to make me feel confident, comfortable, have peace of mind and also fuel like an athlete. So it's important for us to honor our hunger, to get adequate protein, carbohydrates and fiber on our plate this to support keeping our appetite controlled.


"How about hydration?"


Please continue to hydrate this week!! Sip on water, low calorie sports drink, broth and fruit to get extra hydration, especially the 48 hours post-marathon.


"Why do I feel SO tired?!"


Someone else asked, "Why do I feel so exhausted? But I'm not tired, I feel like I've been through the war, but I feel hungry but I'm not hungry?"


This is your nervous system telling you that it was too much- That the marathon was a little too much, but we don't have to freak out or worry there is no irreversible damage done.


Here's what to do - take time off. Get your schedule out and cancel plans, set boundaries, go to bed early, schedule in times to nap or be lazy. Your nervous system needs it!!


So how do you rest? You do yoga, stretching, gentle movement, deep breathing, go for very slow walks, eat some foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as protein and fiber. We relax because that's what is going to help our nervous system regulate and feel healthy again. In Food Freedom Fit Fam, we focus on how to relax and keep the nervous system healthy, because it plays a HUGE role in cravings!!


"How can I create a better plan for my next race?"


I hope this was helpful! Every race there's an opportunity to learn and grow! I hope you take the time to reflect on this race experience and ask yourself how you can get better for next race.


If you know that you are looking forward to having a full proof fueling strategy, more confidence around food and more comfort in your body at your next start line, then consider applying to join Food Freedom Fit Fam. We are accepting new members one last time in 2021.