Runners invest months of hard work, early mornings (or late nights), sweat, and muscle fatigue into preparing for the big day, Marathon Race day. Hours upon hours, miles upon miles of work have been dedicated to prepare for the completion of this epic event. Whether it is your first one or you are a marathon vet, the build up for a marathon is no joke and no easy task. Lots of training and planning go into executing the perfect race plan which may or may not actually go the way you intend for it to go. But now the event has come and gone, and enjoyable as the experience was, you have not prepared yourself for the aftermath…so the question I get very frequently the week after a marathon is “now what?” Athletes seem to have no problem taking a few days off from training, enjoying some late nights and lazier days but about a week or so after, people are itching to get back out there but don’t really know what to do.
My advice is yes, do rest, take some time away from both the physical and mental stress and strain of training but don’t become a total couch potato.
There are definitely multiple different ways to handle the post-marathon rest period and I encourage people to do what feels right for them. Some opt to take two weeks completely off before easing back into running, whereas others opt to throw in some nice, short easy runs to their rest period. I recommend doing some type of cross training, whether it is yoga, Pilates, Barre, swimming, easy spin or just some walking, but do something. Your body has become a well-oiled machine, you have primed it to perform on the big day so don’t just drop it all otherwise your mind and body will likely both get restless. Do some ancillary work to address your hip and core strength, work on running form with drills, throw in some plyometric training. All of these activities are frequently overlooked by distance runners because, lets face it, we fill our “spare” time with running and don’t have (or make) time for the small, yet extremely important pieces.\
If you have not had some time of ache or pain in the build up to your marathon then you are either training very intelligently or you have been very lucky. It is common for our bodies to break down with the higher volume, intensity and hill work that is required to prepare for a marathon. This is also the perfect time to see a physical therapist (or other health care professional who specializes in treating runners) to address any lingering aches and pains. Our facility uses a Dynamic Control Mobility Screen to assess our runner’s movement patterns to find areas of vulnerability that would benefit from being addressed to prevent the development of injuries.
The post-marathon period provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on “what can I add in to be more prepared next time?” Whether it is mastering the art of nutrition during the race, improving your form or your strength, there is surely something you can focus your extra attention on during this down time.
Here is a sample of what a post-marathon period can look like:
|Marathon||Totally off of light 20min walk/jog||Off*Massage||Off or AncillaryWork (drills, abs, arms)||Off or light 30min jog
|Ancillary work (drills, abs, arms, hips)||Cross training up to 1 hour|
|Off||Off or 30-45min jog||Ancillary work (drills, abs, arms, legs)||Cross train (up to 1 hour) or off||Circuit with strides in between activities||Off or 45min run||Cross training up to one hour|
|Off*Massage||30-45min run||30min run with ancillary work||30 min run with strides at the end||Circuit with strides in between activities||30-60minutes||60 minutes of running or cross training|
|Off or 45min run||45min with strides at the end||30min with leg strength work and abs||45-1 hour run, form drills||Circuit with strides in between activities||45-60min run||60-90min run or cross training|
Some things to watch out for post-marathon: monitor your fatigue levels to make sure you are recovering appropriately. It is acceptable to have muscle soreness in the two weeks following a marathon but soreness beyond 3-4 weeks is too long. If you feel “burning” fatigue in your legs, that is a sign that your muscles are not recovered, run easy and keep the volume low until your legs feel fresh again.
Build your volume slowly and wisely as you prepare for your next endeavor.