Post Marathon Training (Recovery) Plan

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Training
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For the long-distance runner who is preparing for their first marathon, half-marathon or even a seasoned veteran preparing for an “A” race – the training plan becomes a huge part of their life.

Every day for 3-4 months they look at the plan, think about their next workout, move around meetings, travel plans, meals and time with their loved ones all around the “Square” that reads – “Thursday – 10 miles, 6 at Goal Pace” or “Sunday – 20 Mile Long Run“.

When Dawn asks me during marathon training, “Hey on the 14th there is a get together at Dave’s house on Saturday night, do you want to go?” the first thing I do is walk over to the refrigerator and look at the square for the 15th.  What do I have the next morning?  Can I move some things around or can I just go out and have some fun not worrying about what I’m going to eat and how much sleep I’m going to get.

This goes on for 18 weeks until race day.  You eat right, rest, take care of yourself and BOOM race day arrives.  You race the best you can, suffer a little, cry a little, hopefully smile a lot post-race and then it’s over.

In a way it ends with a giant thud.  There is no more thoughts of “tomorrow I need to ….” – it just ends.

A lot of distance runners go through symptoms very close to depression after the marathon.  After weeks and weeks, months and months leading up to this HUGE event – all of a sudden it is behind you and there is silence.  It can linger for several weeks until the runner either snaps out of it, finds a new distraction or what happens to most of us – signs up for the next race and the cycle begins anew.

There is a solution however and that is to stake out your recovery plan long before race day.  Create it just like you would your training plan and when you get back home after the race get right back into the habit of crossing off those squares.  My post-race recovery training plan lasts 4 weeks and it takes me from the day immediately following my marathon up to my Sunday long-run 4 weeks later.

Should I make it through the race “healthy”and by that I mean uninjured.  I jump right back into my Recovery Plan.

4-Week Post NYC Marathon Recovery Plan

After taking three days off completely from running I will go out for a very short, very slow 2-mile run the Thursday following the marathon.

The run usually goes something like this, “Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch ….” you get the idea.

But after about 15 minutes my body starts to loosen up and feel a lot better.  Blood is back circulating to all the areas under reconstruction and the final 1-2 minutes of the run feel pretty decent.

Instead of continuing on, I stop.

I take my normal rest day on Friday to help my body get back into its normal rhythm and then I run shorter than usual and easier than usual on Saturday and Sunday.

The following week I get back into my 5X per week running schedule, but again, at drastically reduced mileage and intensity.  In a way I am “reverse tapering”  – just adding mileage a little bit here and there – week after week so that at the end of this recovery period I am back to running a 12-mile long run 4 weeks after the marathon.

At that point I am more or less “recovered” and ready to resume training.

A lot of marathoners and coaches say that it takes one full day of recovery for every mile that you race.  The concept being that if you race a 10K you will recover fully in 6-7 days.  After a half-marathon about 13-14 days.  After a marathon you would be recovered in 26-27 days.  I think that is just about right.

So if you want to get back to running safely, healthy and in a positive mental state than I suggest you plan out that 27-30 day recovery period just as you would the final 27-30 days leading up to race day.  You might not feel perfect lacing up the shoes for your first few runs, but they are going to help you recover from your race mentally as well as physically.

Happy trails everyone!  11 days to New York! 

 

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