This was my first full marathon recovery week. It looks like a lot, but it was really more about socializing than fitness.
I like doing yoga and pool-running the first few days after a marathon. Gentle pool-running (just moving my legs back and forth in cool water) feels wonderful and really seems to help with circulation.
As for the yoga, I start off doing a very gentle version of the class - holding childs pose for anything that seems too strenuous. As days go by and I recover, I'm able to do more and more of the class. When I'm able to complete a yoga class without straining, struggling, or soreness (including balancing on one foot), then I'm ready to start back with some easy running.
I'm a real fan of doing yoga daily during the first parts of marathon recovery, because it's a good way to confirm that I don't have any lingering imbalances that will contribute to injury when I start running again. To use a metaphor, I'm making sure that my chassis is strong and functional before I drive off.
By Thursday, I was feeling good enough to start running again. It's always funny just how much of a struggle that first run back is. The legs feel stiff and like lead, and you wonder how the heck it was just a few days ago that you managed to cover over 26 miles while running nearly 2 minutes per mile faster.
But every day felt just a bit better. By Sunday, though my legs were still a bit tired, they felt close to normal. I'm really eager to get back out there and start training, but I know that's not a good idea. For one thing, you feel recovered from a marathon long before you are actually recovered. For another, if I'm thinking about a late fall marathon, then I need to take it easy now. To start training hard now will just result in me peaking too soon.
Patience is hard, though.
In other news, I got my annual bone density scan this week, and received very good news - my bone density has improved substantially over the past year. So yay.
The back story is that two years ago, my bone density, which had been dropping for several years despite regular calcium supplementation, finally fell into the osteoporosis range. Not good. Last year it slightly improved for the first time, back into the osteopenia zone, but just barely (the dividing line is a "t-score" of -2.5). So better, though not good.
My doctor's response last year was "keep doing whatever you're doing" - when I thought about that, there were two changes that year that coincided with the increase. One was that I had been hurt and hadn't been running (I didn't like the logical conclusion of that fact, so I opted to disregard it). The other was that I had stopped taking my calcium supplements that year.
I had stopped taking them because I had discussed calcium supplements with a dietician. She noted that nearly all calcium supplements come with phosphorus in them. Phosphorus and calcium have a close relationship and like to bind with each other. Because of that relationship, you need some phosphorus in order for your body to absorb and use calcium. This is the rationale for calcium supplements containing phosphorus.
However, there is already a great deal of phosphorus in most foods. And it's thought that too much phosphorus can have just the opposite effect, and leach calcium from your bones. High amounts of phosphorus in a calcium supplement, combined with dietary phosphorus, can actually have the opposite of the intended effect
So...I stopped taking my calcium supplements, which were heavy on the phosphorus, two years ago. I looked for another supplement that had the right type of calcium (there's several types) without phosphorus and also had good reviews for containing what is actually on the label. But I was never able to find one.
After a while, I gave up. And just didn't take calcium supplements (though I felt guilty). So imagine my happy surprise last year when my bone density had improved slightly.
So....I doubled down this year. No calcium supplements, but a substantial increase in vitamin D (also on the dietician's recommendation). I knew I was taking a risk, especially since I'm lactose intolerant, and so I don't get that much dietary calcium. But what the heck.
And...my test results this year indicated that I now have "moderate osteopenia." Still not good. But so much improved from where I was. And the better news is that my bone density apparently wasn't hurt by training for the two marathons I've run in the past year.
I like that conclusion a lot.