After a short time, however, when the initial euphoria wears off, you will probably ask yourself the question, “What now?” You have completed a great goal with months of preparation and hard work. So, the determining factor in how fast you will recover is maybe not merely your body’s recovery but rather your mind’s recovery.
Maybe we are not ready to run another marathon until we have forgotten the last one. Some people get depressed and frustrated, because the progress up to the marathon race has been scheduled, followed and meant a lot in many months.
We have developed habits and daily routines and suddenly we stand there and missing something? Therefore, let’s go through some ways to improve your recovery process after running the marathon race.
The intention is safely to resume the training in the weeks after, regain motivation again and set-up new running goals and remember after a marathon recovery you will be stronger than ever before. If you have not completed a full marathon before, then you will know what you can expect in advance.
While completing a marathon can be quite exciting and motivating, you must be very careful in the weeks following the marathon regarding the rebuilding of your body and mind to pre-marathon level. The effects on the tissues and skeletal can often be tremendous.
After a marathon, all the body’s tissue has been max. loaded and therefore the muscles have experienced what we call micro-traumas, which mean very small tears of the muscular tissue that normally occurs because of the physical demands during a marathon race.
These tears require adequate time to heal and regenerate. If you start up again immediately with a heavy training schedule, it will slow down the recovery process of muscles and tissues and it will also be mentally tough. Even if the micro-trauma damage is minimal, the connective tissue and bones will be in a vulnerable state immediately after the marathon.
To reduce the risk of getting an injury, you have to be aware of these conditions and take a prudent approach to the full resumption of the training. Some training resources say that runners should take a week or two off with no running at all after a marathon.
However, active restitution is recommended. It will be a good idea with some cross-training activities to increase the blood circulation and maintain the cardio-vascular fitness while at the same time, allowing the body to rest, recover, and heal.
It is very individual how to start up the training again, but the rule of thumb is, that you must listen to your body. If you experience too much muscular soreness, walking, easy cross training in the rowing machine, swimming or cycling will be ideal activities to loosen up and restarts the legs in the week after the marathon.
In the subsequent weeks, you can increase your weekly kilometres by about 20 percent. Again, listen to your body to monitor how you feel, to ensure not to do too much too soon.
Most people need about 3 – 5 weeks to recover from a Marathon, and there is difference between whether you, with many years running experience completed the marathon in 2 hours 55 min. or if it was your first marathon completed in 5 hours.
The schedules below are designed to provide a frame and a program for subsequent training after the marathon race. Since it is different where we are individually, it will be up to yourself, to manage the quantity of training from how you feel during the Post Marathon Schedule.
If your weekly kilometres was high or low before the race, then adapts the training accordingly. You do not have to follow the schedule exactly, but rather be prepared to adapt your training based on how your body responds and how you feel.
In table 1 below, it is therefore important to look at the goal headlines, as they should be followed. Then you can adjust the time period personally – it’s just a suggestion to get back stronger than ever before. It is a structured overview of the recovery course after the marathon. Let’s take a main overview of the 5 weeks after the marathon race first, and next go through each week specifically.
|Restore your base||Resume LT
|How||Cross training||Cross tr./
Week 1: Recovery/Active Rest
The line between just recovery with no activity at all and active recovery is narrow, but the main goal during the first week should be to relax. If you measure your resting heart rate in the morning and it is 10 % higher than usual, you should take a rest day. However, since an increasing blood circulation, increases the removal of metabolic waste products out of the cells while the inflow of oxygen and nutrients the other way increases the healing of damaged tissues, it would be a good idea with light cross training in about 20 min.
The first week is the most vulnerable period with regard to injuries and illness, it is therefore important to keep your training intensity on the lower level and not loading your legs too much. The best way to control that is by using a heart rate monitor.
Your sport watch or HRM belt will ensure that you work in the right zone, and if it is too early with even light training, the heart rate monitor will immediately show it with a high heart rate at your low level of training. You should keep your heart rate at about 60 percent of your heart rate reserve. It is not a good idea with easy runs during the first week, since you then use the same loads, movements and recruits muscle groups, as during the marathon race and you risk decreasing your motivation.
Schedule Week 1:
|Rest||Rest or Swim/
|Rest||Rest or Swim/Cycle||Rest||Swim/
|Rest or 20 min. rowing machine|
Week 2: Easy running again
Training during the second week should consist of a balance of rest days, cross-training, and easy runs. You can test your recovery status in the elliptical trainer, since the exercise here reminds of running and the elliptical movements distributes the load on your legs in a gentle way.
Hereby you get a good sense of whether you are ready to run again, by how you feel in the body. Your training intensity should remain easy. During this week, you should try jogging on grass and trails or similar soft surfaces to decrease the pressure on your muscles and joints, you do not want to force the training too much, if your body is not ready.
Schedule Week 2:
|Rest or Swim/Cycle||Elliptical Trainer/
20 min. Easy run
|Elliptical Trainer/ Swim/Cycle||30 min.
|30-40 min. Easy run|
Week 3: Re-build your physical fitness
By running a marathon, you take about 35.000 – 40.000 steps or more and therefore your muscles, tissue and bones has received a lot of “spanking”. In addition, you have probably kept your upper body in the same running position and using the same muscle groups in a long time.
To rebuild their strength and integrity, you can add strength training to your routine as an alternative to your cross training. Of course, you have to keep the weights light, since you do not want to stress your physiology unnecessarily.
Schedule Week 3:
|Rest or Swim/Cycle/
|35 min. Easy run||45 min.
|Elliptical Trainer/ Swim/Cycle||35 min. Easy run||Elliptical Trainer/ Swim/Cycle||60 min. Easy run|
Week 4: Restore your base
During the fourth week after the marathon, you can increase the volume of training moderately and two days including strides are on the program. The reason for these strides is that your marathon training, and the marathon itself, will have made you strong and persevering but also a little slow and monotone with thousands of the same repetitive movements.
Strides are a simple way to improve your speed and shape without too much effort, and probably you will at this point experience how strong and fit you are, because strides really make you feel resourceful, when you have not done them in a long time.
You should run them after a thorough warm-up, with gentle stretching both before and after the run. Allow yourself plenty of rest between each repetition so that you can run each one with good technique and surplus.
As mentioned in the beginning about recovering from a marathon race, it is not only about your body’s recovery. Keep the effort easy and stop if you experience any discomfort or tendency of injury. If you are rushing too much in the recovery period, you disturb your body’s biochemical activity too.
You risk experiencing prolonged fatigue, loss of appetite, feeling lethargic and heavy on your runs for several days in a row, mood swings and any running related injury. Encountering any of these symptom’s means you may need to scale back on your post-race period. Have patience, and give yourself the time you need.
Schedule Week 4:
|Rest or Elliptical T/ Swim/Cycle||35 min. Easy plus 5x100m strides||45 min.
|Elliptical Trainer/ Swim/Cycle||45 min. Easy run||35 min. Easy plus 6-8x100m strides||65 min. steady|
Week 5: Resume LT-training
During the fifth week post-marathon, it is time to re-start and challenge your LT threshold for improvement again. These steady runs do not break down the body as much as intervals because they are not fast enough to cause significant muscle injury, nor are they long enough to totally deplete your glycogen depots.
Include a day with easy run/strides in your training in this last week. Following schedule 5 with awareness of fine-tuning yourself based on how you feel, should leave you injury free and ready to resume serious training again.
Schedule Week 5:
|Elliptical Trainer/ Swim/Cycle||45 min. with 10-15 min. LT||60 min.
|Elliptical Trainer/ Swim/Cycle||45 min. Steady||35 min. Easy run plus 10x100m strides||75 min. steady|
Let’s take a concise resume of the Post Marathon: Recover initially and then gradually add quality and quantity (volume) so you stay injury-free, mentally fit, and able to capitalize on the huge physical and mental fitness you have obtained during the long marathon training period before the marathon race.
Maybe you have your own recovery plan, but I hope you understand the point by starting up again gradually after a marathon race, to carefully regaining the mental and physical fitness again. The reason to make a post marathon schedule is also that you maintain to have a schedule as before the race, and hereby keeps your training habits alive.
The contents with more cross training activities loosen up your “marathon muscles” by using other muscle groups and it also brings variation to your mind.
When you have finished the marathon race, you may have a drained mental and physical state in the period immediately after. In addition, you do not have the same marathon goal to focus on anymore, which can make you disillusioned. Therefore, during the 5 weeks of recovery period planned in advance, your mental state becomes strong again while you maintain training habits – instead of just sit in the couch.
You should hereby have surplus to focus on your next running step, which will depend on several factors. Some of these factors includes your motivation, years of running experience, energy/effort expended etc.