After a big physical challenge like a marathon or charity cycle ride it’s tempting to just keep on going but take some advice from Frankie and RELAX with expert tips for a quicker recovery.
You may have noticed something a bit unusual about our social channels yesterday. No photos of our dinner, no trainers, no rubbish jokes on our friend’s posts. Instead we challenged ourselves to take a bit of a break.
After dragging myself round the London Marathon two weeks ago and Emma cycling to Paris in 24 hours last weekend we needed some chill time.
Taking a break to rest, recover and repair after a big physical challenge – whether that’s a marathon, a 10k, a hike, a big cycle ride, or even a stressful period at work – is something we don’t place enough importance on. In fact, just taking a break in everyday life is something we don’t do enough of.
According to new research from Bupa, despite waking up at 6.30am and going to sleep at 10.40pm, the average person in the UK tries to fit over 17 ½ hours of activity into that time, with only one in 20 opting to properly switch off.
Constantly checking our phones and social pressures mean even when we’re supposed to be relaxing, we’re never really ‘off’. The research found that we’re multi-tasking seven times a day, staying switched on right up until the moment we fall asleep – we’ve all dropped our phone on our face in bed right?
After a big race it’s great to go on social media, post your medal shots and bask in the glory but it doesn’t take long to start comparing your time with others
So as well as relaxing our bodies after a lot of time spent running and cycling to give them time to repair – sports massage and an ice bath yesterday – we’ve been taking a break from social media to give our brain a bit of space too.
After a big race or event it’s great to go on social media for a couple of days, post your medal shots and bask in the glory but it doesn’t take long to start comparing your times with other people and thinking you could have done better. So even taking a day out is quite refreshing.
That said, we’re not the greatest at making time to chill, so we’ve teamed up with some of the experts at Bupa to get some professional tips to help show you how to take time out of your active schedule, embrace those moments of rest after a busy day, recover after exercise or repair after injury and to help you get back to doing what you love. We live in a culture where being constantly on the go is often praised or seen as a good thing, but that can only lead to burn out. Be nice to yourself –and wear your marathon or 24-hour cycling medal in the bath!
4 Ways to Relax and Help Your Body and Your Brain Recover After a Marathon or Big Physical Challenge:
1. Don’t complete any intense sessions for around three weeks
You might be cruising on a race high and desperate to get back on the road but be warned it takes time for your body to recover from the stress of running the big 26.2 or completing a long cycle.
“Exactly how quickly the body repairs depends on the individual but if you don’t want to end up injured you’ll need to take it easy for around three to four weeks after a marathon or any other endurance event. Even if you feel no soreness or fatigue you should still follow a graduated return programme to allow full system recovery,” says Bupa Physiotherapist, Carrie Mattinson.
“The good news is rest doesn’t have to mean no activity at all. After a marathon, I’d suggest around three-four days with no running at all but it’s important to be walking and stretching in these first few days. Then, if you’re feeling good, you should be ok to do some light exercise, just cut back on the intense speed sessions and enjoy gentle jogs and some low-impact cross training such as swimming instead.”
2. Treat yourself to a massage after three days
“Completing a big physical challenge will cause lots of microscopic tears in your muscles so you’re bound to feel the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscles soreness) for a couple of days after as they repair,” says Bupa Sports Massage Therapist, Leah Rollins.
Around three to five days after the event, once the majority of the muscle damage and inflammation has died down, schedule in a deep-tissue massage
“In the first few days I’d advise some gentle stretching and long baths to help ease out some of the soreness. Around three to five days after the event, once the majority of the muscle damage and inflammation has died down, schedule in a deep-tissue massage. This can help flush out toxins and improve blood flow to the muscles. However, if you have any specific areas of pain, bruising or swelling you would be better off consulting a physiotherapist.”
3. Eat well and drink water
Tempting as it is to head straight out to celebrate with your mates, 27 packets of crisps or a pasty from the local petrol station is not ideal recovery food. “A big physical challenge means you’re on the go for anything upwards of two hours. And you’re going to be burning anything upwards of 1,000 calories – an average marathon runner burns more than 2,000 calories in a race – so you’ll need to get some nutrients back into your body,” says Bupa Health Coach and Specialist Nurse, Jacqui Smith.
“Around 30 minutes after a big event try and eat a meal or snack that includes quality carbohydrates for energy and protein to help muscles repair. Good options include: a large bowl of cereal and a glass of low-fat milk; two slices of wholegrain toast, with a can of baked beans; a wholegrain sandwich, wrap or roll with lean meat and salad filling, and a piece of fruit; or a rice/pasta dish with lean meat, skinless chicken or fish.
“In the days following a race, ensure you’re fully hydrated and your body has everything it needs to recover by eating a diet that’s rich in protein and vegetables. Good examples of high-protein foods include lean meat, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products such as cottage cheese and Greek yoghurt.”
4. Don’t forget the mind
“Your body may feel tired after a race or sporting event but so does your brain,” says Bupa Psychologist, Stuart Haydock. “For months you’ve been thinking about training, scheduling in runs and building up to the big day, and now it’s all over you may actually feel a bit of a runner’s low.
Many people observe a drop in their mood if they reduce their activity level suddenly
“A potential way to combat this is by continuing physical activity at some level. Many people observe a drop in their mood if they reduce their activity level suddenly, so perhaps if running isn’t holding the same appeal, try new things like swimming, for example, to keep those good habits in place. Also try simple meditation techniques such as dighragmatic breathing exercises or mindfulness podcasts such as this one to really get your mind back on track.”
One of the great things we discovered through working with Bupa is that you can access their products and services without the need for health insurance or a contract. You can just pay as you go for everything from physiotherapy and GP appointments – so you can get those niggles and aches looked at quickly and easily.