More than 56,000 people ran the Tata Mumbai Marathon on Sunday. The race, India’s biggest and most popular, was won by Ethiopia’s Hayle Lemi. While Aberash Minsewo won the women’s race, Srinu Bugatha was the fastest Indian marathoner and Nirmaben Thakor, the fastest Indian woman.
Now that the race is over and new achievements unlocked, what should you do? Along with every race come soreness, learnings, hits and misses, and a positive or negative experience, says Gagan Arora, celebrity coach and founder of Kosmic Fitness in New Delhi. “Whatever happens on race day is the outcome of long-term and short-term training, weather conditions and execution of knowledge acquired from different sources during the course of training. Once you cross the finish line your mindfulness can really speed up your recovery process. Your physiological recovery will start as soon as you cross the finish line,” says Arora.
One of the first things you need to do after a race is hydrate. No matter how much water you drink during the race, your body is in severe dehydration and in need of electrolytes and carbohydrates. “Post-race, walk straight to the nearest hydration station and grab some electrolytes,” says Arora. “After that walk to the cool-down area and perform gentle stretches while lying on the floor. This helps bring your heart rate to normal levels quickly and relieve the tightness in fatigued muscles.”
Marathon runner and gynaecologist Dr. Erika Patel agrees with Arora on hydration and suggests refuelling with a balanced snack or a meal rich in carbohydrates and proteins. Gentle stretching and a cooldown routine help prevent muscle stiffness, she explains. “For women runners, adequate iron intake is crucial to prevent fatigue given that women face a higher risk of iron deficiency. Incorporating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D supports bone health. Paying attention to the menstrual cycles also helps tailoring recovery plans, adjusting intensity during more challenging phases,” says Patel.
Multiple Ironman finisher and ultra-runner Abhishek Mishra shares that the first thing he does after completing a race is celebrate with his running friends. “I love spending time with my friends and celebrate our race. Sometimes, the celebrations stretch and end with a dance party. My muscles may be sore but not my enthusiasm,” he says.
Mekhla Maheswari, who ran 10km in the Tata Mumbai Marathon on Sunday, also celebrates with her friends after a race but warns that excessive drinking is not a good idea. One celebratory drink is enough, she says. For Pooja Chaudhri, who ran the half marathon on Sunday, celebration is important because finishing a race is a big achievement no matter what time you clock. “It is a moment of pride, and a testimony of all your hard work, dedication and sacrifice. So, thank your body for holding up, and pat yourself on the back, for a job well done,” she says.
Once the celebrations are done, the real recovery process begins. Arora and Patel suggest an ice bath or cold shower once you get home. A cold shower or ice bath post-race can help in reducing soreness quickly and speeds up the recovery process, says Arora. A deep tissue or sports massage is highly recommended two days after a race, as it helps in flushing out toxins and speeding up the recovery process. Another important aspect of recovery is rest.
Race day is the culmination of a training cycle and after a few months of pushing the limits of your body, Mishra recommends two weeks of complete recovery. This includes plenty of stretching on a daily basis, proper hydration, nutritional food and proper sleep. “But this doesn’t mean that I completely stop all exercise. After three days of doing no exercise, I start with easy 30-minute workouts, including jogging and mobility work. I also make sure that I don’t push my body to do very intense workouts for at least a month to 45 days. It is important to focus on your fitness after a race,” adds Mishra.
The perfect re-starting activity, according to Arora, is walking. “After a few days, start with short walks and include some mobility and flexibility workouts at home or the gym. Once all the soreness has disappeared from your muscles and joints, you can start with short 20-30-minute jogs.” Running a marathon saps the strength from your muscles, so it is important to include strength training twice or thrice a week in your post-race training plan. It also helps when you carefully include rest days in your training calendar. Patel suggest turning to cross-training with activities such as swimming and cycling to quicken the recovery of your run-weary muscles.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.