We know that on the whole, exercise is great for your body for a number of reasons. Not only can it help boost your mood and improve longevity, but regularly working out may actually be useful for keeping you healthy and strengthening your immune system, as well. “There are studies that show [our body’s defensive] cells, like neutrophils and macrophages, circulate more efficiently when one engages in regular physical activity,” explains Stephen.
However, overexerting your body is another case entirely. While training for a half marathon or marathon is entirely doable, it places a lot of stress not only on your muscles, but also your immune system. “During your effort you have released stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, and we know excessive amounts of these hormones negatively affect the body’s immune cells,” says Stephen. “[The immune cells] are not as effective after being exposed to elevated levels of stress hormones.”
Training for these intense physical feats certainly prepares your body to complete them with increased ease, but that doesn’t mean you’re totally safe from overexertion. “The vast majority of people underestimate how much damage they have done to their body with a big physical effort, and subsequently underestimate how much time is needed for your body to heal,” Stephen adds.
Allotting proper recovery time after a race is essential to your longterm health, and just because you’re not feeling depleted immediately doesn’t mean you don’t need a rest. “One needs to be very careful, and build back up slowly after a big physical effort, or else your body is going to rebel and your training will be set back many months,” Stephen warns. If you’re not feeling your best after a big race, you may simply have pushed your body to the brink, and it can require a few days to bounce back from the strain.