Ensuring the correct fit for running shoes
A marathon puts a lot of strain on your body. So, while you might be keen to get back to running as soon as possible, it’s smart to ease yourself slowly back in with post marathon training. Marathon recovery takes time – your body will have experienced some cell and tissue damage, and your immune system won’t be performing at its highest level.
Read our post marathon training tips to learn when and how you should get back into your normal running schedule.
General post marathon training tips and advice
It’s important to give your body some time to recover in the days and weeks after your race. As you get more experienced with long-distance running, you might be able to reduce the amount of time spent in marathon recovery, but don’t underestimate your need to repair.
Ultimately, you should listen to your body – if you feel full of energy three days after the marathon, that’s great – why not do a short jog? On the other hand, if you feel your muscles telling you off when you’re just walking around the house or office, give yourself longer before trying anything more strenuous.
A day off per mile run
Many runners swear by this one. For every mile run, add an extra day to your recovery. So, for the 26.2 miles of marathon running, you should avoid training intensively for at least 26 days.
But that doesn’t mean no exercise at all! Rather, it’s about limiting the amount of running you do in those 26 days – avoiding running more than a few miles tops and aiming to keep workouts in the ‘easy’ range.
Do almost nothing in the first three days
Especially if you haven’t got a lot of marathon running experience, you should aim to do as little as possible in the first three days after the race. If you can, take a day or two off work and just stay in, enjoying your achievement and letting your body recover naturally. You’ll want to sleep and hydrate as much as possible. If you have to go to work, try and avoid doing anything too intense – you don’t want to get ill.
Eat a diet which helps you get fit again
Over the course of the marathon, your body will have consumed a lot of glycogen (the way energy is stored in the body) from your muscles and perhaps also your liver. You’ll want to start building this back up to a healthier level, so make sure you keep eating more carb-heavy meals than you normally might. That said, remember to include protein in your diet too, to help repair cell damage. Eating fruit that’s high in Vitamin C will also be handy with cell repair.
Get a massage or visit a physiotherapist
A post marathon massage can be a great way of recovering from your race. Speak with the masseuse to let them know you’ve just done a marathon to decide on the best type of massage for you – and be sure to let them know about any niggles you’ve noticed.
Start with non-running exercises
A good place to start with your post marathon training is to choose kinds of exercise which don’t involve running. Swimming, exercise bikes and cross training machines are the obvious candidates here – they’ll get your body moving without the impact of running on hard surfaces.
If you’d prefer to run, it’s definitely worth considering running on softer surfaces – think a woodchip trail or grass rather than immediately returning to rock-hard tarmac or concrete.
Reverse-taper your marathon recovery
One effective way of getting back into the swing of running is to ‘reverse taper’. Just as in the final three weeks before your marathon where you gradually reduced the miles you ran, reverse tapering will see you gradually build up.
In the first week of your post marathon training, you may just want to do a couple of short runs – perhaps 2-3 miles each. The next week, you might aim for three, slightly longer runs and then in the third week increase the distance again. This gradual approach will help your body stay fit but also give you time to listen to it and notice any pains.
Begin working towards your next goal
Everyone’s body reacts to marathon running differently – for some people the tips above will feel unnecessarily slow, for others you might find you need much longer to recover. As noted earlier, a lot of marathon recovery is about listening to your body.
A final tip is to consider setting yourself a new goal during your recovery period. Even if it’s something as small as a 5k run in a couple of months’ time. This will give you something to focus on and means that you won’t lose all the momentum you built up during marathon training. With an eye on the future, your marathon recovery will just feel like the next step in your racing career.