Did you race a marathon recently? Congratulations!
Whether you crushed your goal or struggled to walk to the finish, you might be feeling that post-race high that motivates you to keep on training… but your muscles, tendons and ligaments are begging you to stop.
For a marathon runner who spent four to five months logging miles, physically and mentally training for a 26.2 mile race, taking a few days off (or worse, a few weeks off) seems counter-intuitive. After a great race all you want is to capitalize on your fitness and continue to set new personal bests. Likewise, after disappointing results, the last thing on your mind is resting.
Some runners even believe that missing a few days of training will diminish their hard-earned fitness. This common belief couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, not taking enough time to fully recover after a marathon can cause injuries, which will definitely compromise your fitness and future training plans.
But how long should you allow your body to rest until you can run or train again?
Usually, it takes a minimum of two to three weeks for a full physical and mental recovery from the strain of running a marathon. Some experts suggest resting one day for every mile you run, thus 26 days of no hard running or racing! Others recommend one day of rest for each kilometer raced, or 42 days of rest!
The truth is that there is no exact formula to follow for recovery after a marathon. No matter what your plan is, you should always listen to your body and make sure you’re recovered before you resume your race training routine. The good news is that light fitness activity actually helps you recover faster because it promotes good circulation, which delivers fresh oxygen and nutrients to muscles and, therefore, aids healing and recovery.
On his Post-Marathon Training Guide, Hal Higdon suggests that “the training you do in the three weeks following a marathon should be a near mirror of what you did the last three weeks before: in other words, an upward, or reverse, taper.” That means you should take at least three days completely off running after a marathon and gradually return to a more active routine, starting by incorporating cross-training, then 2 – 3 miles running and ending what he calls “Zero Week” by logging 6 – 8 miles with some marathon friends.
The four weeks following Zero Week should still be part of your post-marathon recovery. These 4 weeks are a good time to decide what you want to do next. Setting a new goal and planning your training is a great way to use your time during recovery.
So, have you decided what’s your next running goal? Share it in the comments below!