You’ve run your race and your hard work is DONE. Chances are you are feeling one of two ways at this point after your marathon:
- YES! I can’t wait to get back out there and work harder.
- I’m done. No more marathons for me.
For me, even though I’ve had some tough marathons my desire to improve after each one has always been there.
Over the years, I’ve learned one very important thing: how you approach running after a marathon will greatly impact if you will be able to go after those new dreams like you want to! I’ve gone the route of no recovery and I am here to tell you – it may work for you at first, but often times later down the road the effects of not recovering properly will catch up to you.
If I had known that returning to training too soon after Kiawah in 2014 would cost me my goal in Chicago of 2015 I would have without a doubt taken longer to recover. I know it’s hard, I know you may want to get back out there, and I promise you will but your body has worked HARD running a marathon and needs time to rebuild.
So, now that you know I am a firm believer in recovery post marathon the question becomes what’s the best way to approach running after you have run your marathon?
Boston was the first marathon I really truly feel recovered from, and in many ways this is the smartest I have taken recovery so I thought I’d share my tips on how I’m approaching running this time around.
Rest, Rest, Rest
Don’t be afraid to rest. When I say rest I mean NO running, NO cross training, NO strength training. Sure I don’t do it forever, but the week after the marathon I don’t focus on training in any way. The most I do is go for some light walks just to get outside and enjoy the time.
I understand why many runners are afraid to rest, they’re afraid that somehow it will make them slower or lose fitness they’ve gained. I promise you 1 week will do nothing – or even 2 weeks. Your body has worked week after week to get you to the race and then raced hard. It’s time you let your body get the rest and recovery it needs.
Rest was especially important after this race as I wasn’t getting as much sleep as I normally do. Sleep is a vital part of recovery so if you are a new-Mom like me or are going through a period where you aren’t sleeping as well you may need to extend the rest period.
Ditch the “Plan”
After my rest period was over I told myself that for the next 3 weeks I would run without any plan whatsoever. Some days I go out there and I feel good and I’ll pick up the pace a little bit. Some days I’m feeling sluggish and I run a few miles really slow.
The key is just to go out there and enjoy it! Don’t worry about following a set of rules or a certain plan, you will have plenty weeks ahead of your for that. Take your kids on the run with you, go explore a new trail, do the things that you couldn’t do because you were so strictly set to a training plan for the last 12-16 weeks.
Run for FUN
I’m not saying the hard workouts aren’t fun, but how often in your training do you get to just do what you want and RUN? I have incorporated a few workouts into my recovery time but the great thing about them is that there is no set pace I need to hit, no set distance I need to run – I just go out there and run fast and let my legs dictate what they want to do that day.
It doesn’t mean you have to go out and go easy every single day but it is important to make sure you aren’t going too crazy. I told myself all my workouts would simply be for fun and I in no way wanted to feel exhausted, like I’m working too hard, or too taxing on my body. I just like to run fast some days and I just do whatever feels good!
An example – on Monday I had a rough night and I really just wanted to go out there and RUN. I went out with no set pace or distance and just ran what felt moderately hard. Once my body felt like it was starting to work too hard I quit. I ended up covering 6 miles. That’s just what I had that day.
Take a Break from the Marathon Distance
There are many runners who love to run marathon after marathon, but for me my body doesn’t respond well to that. Plus, my goal typically is to get improve my next marathon time and the best way to do that is to work on getting faster in the shorter distances.
Once I feel ready to train again I begin to focus on a shorter race such as a 5k or 10k. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to race one (but I encourage it because they can be a nice change of pace) but that is the type of training program that I set up.
The shorter training programs are usually less miles but faster miles. You still have your easy days but since you are going to put your body through faster stuff it’s important that you reduce your over all miles.
I typically will take 6-8 weeks to focus on the shorter distance.
Base Building Phase
A base building phase is a period of time that you focus on just easy running and getting your body used to be out there. This is a great phase to do if it is your first marathon. It takes the pressure off having to go fast and just focuses on conditioning your body for the distance itself.
You will see a lot of different opinions about how to approach running after a marathon, but the key is your body needs time to recover. Don’t take it for granted no matter how good you may think you feel.