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Post-marathon recovery week 1

Treat yourself

Sleep

Coach: Nick Anderson, Polar UK Head Coach

First things first: Close your eyes and let yourself drift off to dreamland – for as long and as often as you need to during the first weeks after a marathon.

Nothing boosts recovery as effectively as quality sleep.

Especially deep sleep is key for recovery and performance as anabolic hormones are released during deep sleep cycles. The deep sleep stage restores your body and supports your immune system.

If you frequently have nights without enough deep sleep and your resting heart rate is higher than usual, your body is not fully recovering during the night, leaving you tired and lethargic the next day.

The power of sleep is unquestionable for health, well-being and sports performance – and sleep is the foundation for other recovery measures.

Athlete: Tish Jones, Team GB Runner

I recommend that you aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. This applies as a rule in general, but sleep is particularly crucial for post-race recovery.

If after 8-9 hours you’re still depleted, you may be sleeping enough hours, but not getting enough high-quality sleep.

The reasons for poor sleep quality are varied but to rule out causes you can invest in a blood test to check if you’re lacking crucial vitamins or certain minerals that help your body and mind to relax.

Based on the results of your medical exams, you can then change your eating habits if necessary.

Keep in mind: Monitoring your sleep quality and heart rate is important in all training phases, not just post-marathon.

Eat and drink well

Coach: Nick Anderson, Polar UK Head Coach

Don’t start a diet or calorie-cutting regime this week – your body needs to heal and reload so fuel it with good proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates to complete a balanced plate.

Focus on a well-balanced diet with red meat, white meat or fish (or nuts, tofu and pulses for veggies) and lots of fruit and vegetables with a broad spectrum of colors.

Athlete: Tish Jones, Team GB Runner

Eating nutrient dense foods in the days after a marathon will go a long way in making sure that your body recovers as effectively as possible.

Of course, you deserve to treat yourself this week: Indulge in whatever it is you’re craving for, but don’t get too carried away!

If you continue a diet with bad fats and high simple sugars for days and weeks, it'll be hard to control your blood sugar levels, sleep and mood.

Ultimately, eating "whatever" speed getting back into training (if that’s the plan). Everything in moderation.

Get active!

Coach: Nick Anderson, Polar UK Head Coach

After a marathon, you may find it helpful to do some active recovery workouts, such as walking, swimming or easy cycling. About 30 minutes, 3-4 times during the first post-marathon week will help to work some of the stiffness out of your muscles.

To diversify your training and to boost your recovery, make time for stretching after doing some light activity, focusing on your quads, calfs, hamstrings and glutes.

Athlete: Tish Jones, Team GB Runner

Immediately after the race itself and the days that follow you can allow yourself a break from running. During that break, you can cross-train if you’re not too tired: Choose any activity that you enjoy and provides you a mental and physical break from the exertion of running.

Personally, I cycle. It’s not always an easy cycle either, but importantly, I am off loading my body and my mind has a different focus than when I train running.

If running is the only sport you enjoy, putting on off-road shoes and heading for the trails is a good way to vary your usual training.

How to monitor?

If you’d rather know than guesstimate if you're sleeping and recovering well or not, sleep tracking is the way to know what really goes on in your body during the night.

If you're using a Polar product (with Sleep Plus or Sleep Plus Stages tracking), all you need to do to track your sleep is wear your watch snuggly on your wrist during the night. You can check your sleep data on your watch or in the Polar Flow app.

When you know how well (or poorly) you sleep and recover during the night, you can start changing your sleep habits and bedtime routines to optimize your sleep.

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