Congratulations! You did it. Celebrate and pat yourself on the back for completing the marathon. 99.5% of the American population will never know what that feels like.
The marathon is a grueling 26.2 mile event. Your body will be weaker and your muscles will be damaged after pushing yourself hard over such a great distance. Marathon recovery requires patience and attention. But, if you do it right, you’ll be tearing it up again in no time!
Do what Jackson Browne says and “take it easy.” You already showed the world what you can do. It’s OK to dial things back and put your feet up for a little while. The first two days after the race you should not even think about putting your running shoes on. Maybe a little walk around the block or through the neighborhood to get the blood flowing, but nothing more. Try to get in bed early and let your body recover and rebuild.
You probably burned in excess of 3500 calories on race day and lost a few pounds between the start and the finish. Your body consumed all of your available fuel and then tapped into your reserves. Now is the time to restock the shelves with nutritious meals and plenty of water. You will feel better and have more energy if you keep the tank full with healthy snacks throughout the day. You may want to consider an immunity booster or extra vitamin C to keep your body protected during this time.
Icing sore muscles and joints, elevating your feet, and massaging your muscles will all help speed recovery and make you feel less like a stiff-legged zombie. Be careful not to do any kind of deep massage for at least several days after your marathon. Your muscles are still very tender and vulnerable. Even if you feel better, you are still a mess at the microscopic level.
Walking can be very therapeutic. It allows you to get outside and feel like your back in the routine again- albeit much slower. Cross-training activities like cycling and swimming are also a good forms of exercise to help keep your cardio levels high while reducing the stress on your overused muscles and joints. Whatever you choose, keep it easy and stay in the green zone for effort.
5. Backwards Taper
As you make your way back to regular training, think of it as a reverse taper. You are going to slowly build your mileage up in a way that will keep you healthy, reduce injury, and give you a solid foundation to build upon for the future.
Below is an example of a 3-week recovery plan following the marathon. Every runner will recover at their own rate, so your plan will need to be very flexible based on what your body is telling you. Don’t push it, injuries will follow unless you’re ready.
- Day 1 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
- Day 2 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
- Day 3 – 2 Miles at a very easy pace
- Day 4 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
- Day 5 – 3 Miles at a very easy pace
- Day 6 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
- Day 7 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
- Day 8 – 3 Miles at a very easy pace
- Day 9 – 3 Miles at a very easy pace
- Day 10 – Rest and Recuperate, 2-3 15 minute walks
- Day 11 – 5 Miles at a very easy pace
- Day 12 – 5 Miles at a very easy pace
- Day 13 – Rest
- Day 14 – 6 Miles at a very easy pace
- Day 15 – Rest
- Day 16 – 6 Miles regular run
- Day 17 – 3 Miles easy
- Day 18 – 6 Miles regular run
- Day 19 – 4 Miles easy
- Day 20 – Rest
- Day 21 – 10 Miles easy
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