With the Melbourne Half & Full Marathon just around the corner, I thought it might be a good idea to give you some race preparation and recovery tips on how best enjoy your race.
I’ve run quite a few Half Marathons and the Paris Marathon, so I thought I would let you know what to eat the night before the race, the morning of the big day, and what to eat after the race to help your recovery….
What to eat the night before:
Everyone will be telling you to ‘carb load’. And this is partially true. Make sure you do have good carbs in the meals before your race – dinner, lunch, breakfast the day before, but having some protein and good fats in your meals is just as important
- Grilled salmon or chicken with quiona & salad with roasted sweet potato
- Wheat free pasta with Bolognese sauce (packed full of veggies of course). Add a side salad and include some avocado
- Grilled chicken with wheat free pasta, pesto and veggies
In my opinion, this is going to depend on the time your race will start.
As a general rule (and it would be a good idea to have trialled this before race day), it’s a good idea to eat a small breakfast at least 2 hours before the race. So for example, if your race is at 8.30am, make sure you eat something by 6.30am.
With this in mind, you could eat: A small bowl of porridge with some nuts/seeds, or some sourdough toast with almond butter. The best thing to do is eat what you normally do before your long training runs.
If your race starts at 7am, it would be best just to have a small snack. For example, half a banana with a few almonds and try and have this at least 1-1.5hours before your race. If you are happy to eat 2 hours before the race, see the tips above.
Being hydrated before the race is also really important.
If you are running the marathon, I hope you have trained with gels, jelly beans/snakes etc – if you haven’t yet, you need to try eating something on a longer run, to see how your body reacts. You don’t want to eat anything you haven’t trained with on race day….trust me….I speak from experience!
What to eat after the race:
When you finish your race, you will be feeling pretty excited, but also pretty tired. One of the best things to drink would be a coconut water. Coconut water is full of natural electrolytes, vitamins and minerals and is perfect for rehydrating. It is best to eat something within 1 hour of finishing your race. A meal higher in protein (for muscle repair) is ideal.
- An Omelette with mushrooms, peppers, pumpkin, tomato, spinach etc with a side of sourdough toast with avocado.
- 2 Poached eggs on sourdough with avocado, smoked salmon and spinach and/or mushrooms.
It is essential for your body, your muscles and tissue repair that you make sure you recover properly after you have run a half marathon or marathon. You may have heard of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which will usually kick in 24-48 hours after your race. This soreness/stiffness is your muscles rebuilding and repairing.
To ensure a good recovery, this is what I recommend:
- Cool Down – Once you have finished your race, don’t just stop and sit down. Walk for a bit, shake out your legs, take it down to a lower intensity for at least 10 minutes afterwards. The longer you have run, the more time you want to walk for. This will help to reduce lactic acid build up in your muscles and can help reduce stiffness.
- Rehydrate – You should be hydrating while you run, as you lose a lot of fluid while running. Once you have finished your race, you should rehydrate with something like Coconut Water (much preferred over the sugary electrolyte drinks). If you are running the full marathon, you will probably be given electrolytes during the run. I would only drink that if you have been drinking it in your training, as your body might not be used to it. So if you aren’t going to carry your own coconut water, I would suggest you check out what drinks they will give you during the race and try them on a training run.
- Have a Lectric Soda bath – go and buy some Lectric Soda from your local supermarket or Chemist. These are amazing for muscle soreness. All you need to do is put about 1-2 cups in a warm bath, lie back with a book/mag and relax for about 20mins.
- Stretch, Stretch, Stretch – This is so important for lengthening out muscles that have been shortened (worked) during your run. Make sure you stretch each muscles group – hamstrings, Glutes, Quads and calves in particularly.
- Active recovery – Active recovery will help improve circulation, which will help nutrient rich blood pump around your body and getting rid of any waste products, which can help repair and refuel your muscles faster. In this case, it might be walking back to your car, or to the train. Don’t go home and sit on the couch for the rest of the day, or you won’t be able to get up later :) Try and do some active recovery for the days after your race as well.
- Have a massage – It will feel great, improve your circulation and can help you relax. Make sure you choose a sport massage, or deep tissue massage. Otherwise grab a foam roller and get right into those muscles!
- Ice bath – this is something that I have never tried, but I know people that swear by them! Apparently it helps to recover faster, reduce muscle soreness and prevent injury. The theory behind this method is that by repeatedly constricting dilating blood vessels it will help to remove and flush out any waste products in the tissue (lactic acid etc). So as soon as possible after your run, run a cold bath, add some bags of ice and try and sit in there for 5-10mins. A temperature of about 12-15 degrees Celsius is recommended. Another option, that doesn’t seem so crazy is the contrast water therapy – which is where you alternate 2mins of warm/hot water with 30 secs of cold water. Repeat 4 times, trying to make the cold part longer each time.
- Rest and sleep – When you sleep, your body repairs itself – get too it! Just make sure you have done some stretching first.
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