Updated: Oct 27, 2019
You have crossed the Verrazzano Bridge, the Queensboro Bridge, hilly Central Park, and you finally crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon. Months of training and prep all lead up to this one triumphant moment. Whether you are a newbie marathoner or an elite runner, completing a marathon is a major life accomplishment.
First of all, congratulations! Now, what comes next?
The same commitment that got you through the training season and the marathon itself, has to be put to use once again for the post marathon recovery. Marathon running puts strain on the body, no matter what your fitness level is. Proper care and time are essential for recovery afterwards to help the body heal and prevent (or recover) from injuries.
The best way to approach your recovery is with a whole-body holistic approach. This means practicing self-care and not pushing yourself to start strenuous exercise again too soon. Exhaustion after a marathon, physical and emotional, can be addressed by acupuncture for athletes. Together with the proper post-race nutrition, you will soon be on your way to recovery and ready to start training for your next race.
New York City Marathon Recovery Plan
Acupuncture forms part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and can help your body function optimally right down to the cellular level. It does so in a multitude of ways. Recent studies (1,2 see reference) have shown that acupuncture can benefit the recovery process in athletes by reducing pain and inflammation and speed up healing. Here are some of the main benefits of acupuncture for runners.
Acupuncture can treat post-race injuries and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
by reducing inflammation and pain. Acupuncture releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain killer and ‘feel-good’ hormone and improves blood circulation to speed up healing. Acupuncture trigger-point technique can also help to manually release muscle tension built up during the race, undoing the knots and spasms.
Acupuncture can treat the dreaded Runner’s Knee
by increasing poor blood flow around the patella and releasing the tight muscle groups that can be referring pain to the knee. This helps to reduce knee friction, decrease pain and improve the mobility of the joint. Studies have also shown that acupuncture is effective in treating various types of knee pain, inflammation and can stimulate cartilage repair under the patella (3,4 see reference).
A good night’s sleep after a hard marathon is one of the most important aspects of post-race recovery.
Acupuncture can help tackle mental fatigue and improve sleep quality
by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and regulating hormones like serotonin. This in turn relieves symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome, like anxiety and insomnia, allowing the body to regenerate and find balance again.
Acupuncture gives a boost to the immune system.
The immune system may be lowered over the course of the demanding training period coupled with mental stress. All these factors can make you more susceptible to catching a cold or flu, especially at the start of the flu season. Acupuncture will stimulate the immune response and help you fight off pathogens.
Post-race nutrition plan
Just like preparing for your race, where you increase your intake of certain food for optimal performance; you have to replace all the nutrients you lost afterwards.Neglecting to do so will delay the onset of healing and prolonging time needed before you can exercise again.
Restore glycogen storage
Glycogen is what muscle cells use for energy by converting it into glucose. After a strenuous activity like running a marathon, glycogen storage will be greatly depleted. You can refuel them by eating healthy, high-quality carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, bananas or simply a high-calorie count recovery drink. It’s a good idea to snack on a high carbohydrate food within the first 30 minutes after race, as your body will convert carbohydrates to glycogen faster.
Eat some protein, and snack on high magnesium, high antioxidant food
Protein will help rebuild any muscle fibers that might have been damaged during the race. Include some yogurt, beans, eggs or lean meat with your carbohydrate intake. Magnesium is a commonly overlooked nutrient for recovery. High magnesium foods like nuts and leafy greens can help your body get rid of lactic acid which cause soreness and muscle cramps. It can also reduce inflammation and benefit sleep. Similarly, eating high antioxidant foods like blueberries can also combat cellular damage caused by the physically and mentally demanding event.
Re-hydration after a race is key. You lose electrolytes like sodium and potassium during the race, the key minerals maintaining muscle contractions and fluid balance. If electrolytes are not replaced, you risk the chance of muscles going into spasm. Start drinking re-hydration fluids immediately after the race and supplement with potassium rich foods like bananas.
Another great way to help your body distress after a marathon is to take a hot bath with Epsom salt. Epsom salt contains magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is a mineral essential for a multitude of bodily functions as we discussed above.
You might still feel sore a few days after the race but it is important to start moving again. Introducing gentle stretching and exercise can help with muscle flexibility. Gyrotonic is especially beneficial because it moves the fascia network, muscles and joints simultaneously in circular motions, going through the complete range of motion. It is a training method based on the principles of yoga, dance, tai chi and swimming. “The Gyrotonic method develops a conscious exercise experience by creating space in the spine and joints, and length in the muscles, which integrates the whole body kinetic chain to strengthen and rehabilitate injuries”, says Billy Macagnone (Gyrotonic Master Trainer and owner of Body Evolutions Studios in NYC).
Acupuncture is a drug-free way for athletes to boost recovery after a beast like the New York City Marathon. When combined with proper post-race nutrition and gentle exercises like Gyrotonic, your chances of developing muscle stiffness or injury will be minimal.
1. Lin, Z., Lan, L., He, T., Lin, S., Lin, J., Jang, T. and Ho, T. (2009). Effects of Acupuncture Stimulation on Recovery Ability of Male Elite Basketball Athletes. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, [online] 37(03), pp.471-481. Available at: https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/pdf/10.1142/S0192415X09006989 [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].
2. Urroz, P., Colagiuri, B., Smith, C. and Cheema, B. (2013). Effect of Acute Acupuncture Treatment on Exercise Performance and Postexercise Recovery: A Systematic Review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, [online] 19(1), pp.9-16. Available at: Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22967279 [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].
3. Zhang, Y., Bao, F., Wang, Y., & Wu, Z. (2016). Influence of acupuncture in treatment of knee osteoarthritis and cartilage repairing. American journal of translational research, 8(9), 3995–4002. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5040698/ [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].
4. Wang DH, e. (2019). Influence of acupuncture on IL-1beta and TNF-alpha expression in the cartilage of rats with knee osteoarthritis. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22007590/ [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].