Two weeks ago I completed the Seattle Marathon – and the race was tough. It was mostly uphill and cold so my quads and hamstrings were shredded by the time I finished (or by mile 18). Unlike past marathons, when the soreness really kicked in 24-48 hours post race, I was pretty beat up the rest of the day Sunday and had to stick to flats for Monday and Tuesday because my legs were so sore.
I know, I know. I just ran a marathon. Why worry about running at all? Why not just take a week off, relax and enjoy being a lump on the couch?
In my experience, it is critically important to get moving after the marathon; if I don’t, the soreness settles. Moving around speeds blood to the affected tissues, helping to speed recovery. For a normal marathon (i.e. Salt Lake City, run this summer), I follow a post-marathon recovery plan that incorporates running.
My SLC plan looked like this:
Race Day, ice bath after + 2 miles walking that night (key to recovery)
Day One: 3 miles, easy running
Day Two: 4 miles, walking (day two is often the most painful day because of DOMS)
Day Three: 4 miles, easy running
Day Four: 4 miles, walking or cross-training
Day Five: 4 miles, easy running
Day Six: Cross training
Day Seven: 6 miles, easy
A rule of thumb I’ve heard and use is to take a day of easy running for every mile in the race. Usually I just take that to mean no speed or hill training and no runs over 12 miles. I also incorporate yoga, massage and protein-rich meals into my daily routine.
My method has always worked well for me before, but this time, since my legs were so shredded after the monster hills, I decided to follow a non-running post-marathon routine. I still did the ice bath and walking post-marathon, but my workouts have been low-impact and incorporated my arms and core. Last week’s recovery workouts have looked like this;
Day One: 60 minutes, elliptical
Day Two: 60 minutes, elliptical (different one, to work different muscles) + 20 minutes rowing
Day Three: 60 minutes, stairs
Day Four: Barbell strength group fitness class (low weights)
Day Five: 60 minutes, elliptical
Day Six: Cycle group fitness class + hot yoga
My legs felt 100% better, but the next week I ran a lot less and incorporated hot yoga to maximize recovery. My goal is to build my core and arm strength in time to start training again in January. From this experience, I think a no-running recovery plan is a great plan if you have a really tough race or just need to take a break.
No matter what your philosophy, post-marathon recovery should incorporate the following:
1. Ice (or contrast therapy, which alternating cold and heat)
2. Stretching (yoga)
3. Massage, including self-massage (foam rolling counts)
4. Easy workouts starting the day after race day
5. Protein-rich diet to aid recovery
And REST! As Mint said in What To Expect When Your Marathon Is Over it’s time to regroup, reflect, and make new goals!
What is your post-race recovery plan? Are you for running right away or for taking time off?