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How to Recover From a Marathon Quickly

26.2 Miles or Beyond: Expert Advice on Recovery From Endurance Training

"Exercise is medicine, and you need it every day" was the message Dr. Jordan Metzl hammered in during a recent discussion at the annual espnW Women + Sports Summit. As a guest of Lexus, I was able to hear Dr. Metzl's advice on keeping the body conditioned, especially for endurance athletes. And he should know — not only is Dr. Metzl a sports medicine physician, he's also competed in 29 marathons and 10 Ironman Triathlons. For those individuals moving beyond one-hour sweat sessions and instead clocking serious miles in their fitness routines, Dr. Metzl shared these tips for keeping the body healthy.

  1. Don't be one-dimensional: You may be training for a marathon, but running should not be the only part of your routine. "You need to do more than just your sport," said Dr. Metzl, and he recommends at least two strength training sessions per week. He advises patients to focus on total-body, functional fitness when putting the kind of physical duress on the body that a race will. Squats and lunges make up the cornerstone of his workouts, as does plyometrics. A workout session with Dr. Metzl is basically a boot camp, which we were all treated to on our first morning at the summit — talk about a sore backside the next day!
  2. Get the kinks out: When the body trains hard, muscle use goes into overtime, which can cause a variety of ailments ranging from soreness to tightness. This is exactly why Dr. Metzl is a huge proponent of keeping the body flexible and limber. In addition to stretching after every workout, he also recommends foam rolling at least four times a week. Or if you can swing it, a sports massage once a week. This will help keep the muscles long and lean, but mostly, ready to take on all the miles you throw at it.
  3. Cool things down: It may not sound like the most pleasant way to hang after a grueling workout, but Dr. Metzl recommends an ice bath after any period of prolonged (and intense) activity to "reduce inflammation, which will help decrease pain going forward." He also mentioned that ice baths are particularly helpful for endurance athletes because the cold temperature prevents the breakdown of tissue and helps increase blood flow, which speeds recovery time along. If an ice bath seems to intense, try a cold-plunge pool or even a shower.
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