If you want to stop and hunker down wherever you can find some space to sit after reaching the finish line of a marathon, it’s understandable. After all, long-distance running is no joke and you need to give those weary legs and tired lungs a well-earned rest.
But hold on for a few minutes. A proper cool-down is as important as a regular warm-up and you must never skip it.
A lot of blood inside your body tends to gather around the legs after such strenuous running. We call this “blood pooling”, and it’s important to get the circulation back to normal before you rest after a marathon.
That’s where the post-marathon cool-down comes in. The main aim of a cooling-down session is to help the body to return to pre-exercise conditions. This cooldown will help reduce your heart and breathing rate, and lower the body’s core temperature.
Walk around for about 5-7 minutes and then settle down to some stretches. Stretch your calf, hamstrings, hips and trunk. Repeat 2-3 times and hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds. This will help you cool down the body and normalise blood circulation. Continue with the stretches over the next few days as well.
The muscles of the body go a series of stressful processes during the marathon – fibres, ligaments and tendons are damaged. A cool-down will create a gateway to a proper recovery and ensure that you’re back to being the best you can be in quick time.
Apart from tackling the blood pooling and damaged muscles, a proper cooldown can remove lactate from your muscles and blood, reduce your pumping adrenaline level, decrease muscle stiffness and the likelihood of future injury.
Marathon runners tend to shed about two to three pounds of water weight, and it is important to rehydrate and grab some calories. Ideal marathon recovery food includes carb-packed items such as bananas, raisins, pita bread, fruit smoothies and brown rice. Experts recommend that runners consume 1.2 grams of carbs per kg of body weight per hour for the first four hours after finishing a marathon. Stay away from simple carbs, sugar, and alcohol.