Post Marathon Recovery - What To Do & Why It's Important
Let's talk about recovery and rest, because all of us runners get anxiety about not running, right? I can definitely relate to that, but I spent 9 days not running after the LA Marathon and I didn't completely lose my mind! Woot!
This past training cycle, I welcomed my rest days and enjoyed every second of them. I haven't provided many details to my recent training, but just to give you an idea of what each week looked like for the last 2 months, here's an overview:
- Monday - easy paced run (anywhere from 4-6 miles at 8:25 - 8:30 pace)
- Tuesday - easy paced run (usually around 7 miles)
- Wednesday - speed work ( example: 8-9 miles - 2 miles easy; 3 miles at 7:00 pace; 2 miles easy)
- Thursday - track work (200, 400, or 800 meter repeats at 6:00 or 6:12 pace; I usually ended up with 8 miles)
- Friday - yoga and epsom salt bath (rest day)
- Saturday - complete rest day
- Sunday - long run (this was either a long run at easy pace, or a long run at marathon pace (7:27/mile). Each week alternated between easy or marathon pace)
I was running 5 solid days in a row with this schedule on repeat. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was so excited to not do anything! The back to back speed workouts on Wednesday and Thursday tore up my muscles, so you can understand why :)
How I Recovered From LA
I did nothing for almost 7 days. I did yoga 3 days post marathon and took what must have been my 30th epsom salt bath since the race. I woke up on the 4th day feeling refreshed and had no more pain in my legs. But I still held off on running.
I was lucky a vacation was planned for the weekend following LA. Ricky and I went to Yosemite for 3 days to partake in some R&R. Yes, I could've taken running gear and I did get a little jealous when I saw other runners out enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful park, but I didn't take anything with me and just relaxed. When I got back late Sunday, I finally went to the gym to do 4,000 meters of rowing.
Finally, 8 days post race, I allowed myself to do some cardio with a morning spin class. My legs felt great, but I was only putting in about 75-80% effort.
My first run back 2 nights ago was easy paced, and everything about it felt good.
Why Recovery Is So Important
One of the things I'm grateful to my coach for is stressing how important recovery is and why. I wanted to share some of the resources he shared with me. It's difficult if you're a run streaker or a workout addict (which IMO, many runners are) to break free from the idea that you have to leave every workout feeling spent and that each day not working out or running is a waste. Recovery provides just as much value as a workout does.
Watch this video - Kenyan runners who turn into Olympians spend a lot of time running at an easy pace during their training. This documentary blew my mind and kept me in check on all of those easy pace days during training. It also helped me realize that there was a purpose for those days, rather than feeling like I was missing out because I wasn't going fast.
Read this article - Mark shared this post on his Facebook page after the LA Marathon. It explains what happens to your body during a marathon and how to properly recover during the 3 weeks that follow. It recommends not running until days 4-7. When I asked Mark if I could run a few miles over the weekend, he pointedly asked what would 3 or 4 miles do for me? Besides help with my sanity... Nothing! 9 days of not running didn't take anything away from the fitness level I've built up. So, while the article recommends doing one easy run during that time, the point is, even taking a week off won't leave you back at square 1 with your fitness. You're body will still be fit!
Essentially, the goal with recovery is to prevent injury and over training. I hope you found this helpful! How do you recover from a marathon?