We train for months to get to the start line of the race both mentally and physically. You’ve worked hard, you’ve run your race, and now you’re excited to see what else you can do.
Not so fast.
It has taken me man years to understand the importance of letting your body have a break. After I ran the Kiawah Marathon in December 2014, I took 2 days off and jumped back in. I was so excited after running my best race ever, that I jumped right back in to my next goals.
I was fine for a while. It took me a bit to get my legs back, but for a month or so I was still running decent paces and hitting workouts. Then it all changed. My training began to feel hard, I wasn’t hitting workouts, going out for easy runs felt awful, and running was starting to become a chore.
There were multiple factors that played into my burn out, but one of them was never allowing my body to adequately rest after my marathon.
Flash forward to the 2015 Chicago Marathon. I ran the race and immediately knew I needed to do things differently this time around. Instead of jumping back into running, I took a week off. No, it wasn’t easy and I was going crazy but I knew that my body need to rest. I took advantage of the extra sleep and relaxation that week.
Ever race and distance is different. I didn’t take a full week off after my half marathon, but my coach did have me take Sunday off and I even added in an extra rest day Tuesday. My miles are much lower and only one moderate workout is scheduled.
How you treat your body after a tough race can have a big impact on your performance and training going forward. I’ve learned some very important lessons through my own mistakes.
I think rest should really be in quotation marks, because this is different for every person. I benefited from taking a week off after my marathon, there are elites that take 2 weeks fully off, and then my husband doesn’t take a single day off. It all depends on your body; however, you still need to rest.
Even my husband who still runs will cut his mileage way back and easy run for at least 2 weeks after a marathon. For him, this works, but for me it doesn’t. You have to know how your body responds. If it isn’t used to running every single day, then most likely taking time off is probably a good thing.
Quit Comparing Yourself
Social media is a tough thing. It’s great for motivation but when it comes to comparison it can be very defeating. It has taken me several years to realize that what someone else is doing in their training, doesn’t mean I need to be doing it too.
Just because someone you follow on Instagram, Facebook or a blogger can jump right back into running after 1-2 days off, doesn’t mean that you should too. It also doesn’t mean that they are doing what they should be doing. I will use myself as a prime example in this one. As I already shared, after Kiawah I only took 2 days off. To an outsider looking in they may have felt that they need to do the same thing, but the truth is I shouldn’t have even been doing that.
Do what works for you and don’t worry about what someone else is doing.
Stretch and Roll
Stretching and foam rolling are always important, but after a race they are especially important. You want your body to recover properly. I spend time each day stretching and foam rolling, even if it’s only for 5-10 minutes.
You want to treat your body well so that it can ultimately get back to normal and have another strong training cycle. If your muscles are tight then not only will it hurt but it can also lead to injury.
Let Yourself Live a Little
The week after a really hard race I try to let myself live a little. Before a big marathon I watch everything I eat the week before. This is to ensure I don’t have stomach issues during the race. Once the race is over, I lighten up a lot on my diet.
This allows me to not only relax my body but my mind too. I stay up later, eat the foods I feel like, sleep in later, go out with friends and family, and really just let my body and mind enjoy the break.
Remember to Start Slow
There will come a time after your rest that you decide it’s time to start training again. It’s okay to give yourself a few weeks of just easy, relaxed running. It’s not necessary to jump right back into workouts. Go out on the trails, try new routes, and explore a little! It’s these times that you don’t always get during hard training so have fun with it.
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As you can tell, my recovery has been different after my full and half. While I am still running this week after my half marathon last Saturday, I have 2 planned rest days, my miles are cut down to around 35 and aside from one quicker workout to get my legs moving, most of the runs are easy and controlled. It’s about letting my body catch up and recover so that I can hit Boston Training!
It’s easy to get carried away as runners, but please remember just because you feel ready to go doesn’t mean you are. Even if you can jump right back into it, doesn’t mean it won’t catch back up to you later. It is far better to take some rest now then burning out in the heart of your next training cycle.
How do you recover after a big race?
Does your recovery process vary based on the race distance?