Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marathon Recovery

As the fall marathon season winds down, runners’ focus shifts from training to tapering to recovery. Twenty-six point two miles is no joke (so I’ve heard)! You can’t just run a marathon then workout the next week, your legs need weeks and sometimes over a month to fully recover. It may seem frustrating to drop from 60+ mile-weeks down to less than 30, but in the words of Bikram, “Your body loves you for doing it.”

So what is the normal amount of time to recover from a marathon effort?

Some preliminary googling, plus talking to my marathoning teammates tells me that there is no set formula. Most agree that you shouldn’t run at all for the week after the marathon. Go for walks or spin lightly for 30 minutes to flush lactic acid waste out of your muscles.

Basically you’re in reverse taper mode – eat well and train easy until you feel back to normal (try this protein and veggie-intense Sweet Potato Frittata recipe).

If you ran a really hard race, if you started too fast and bonked, if the course was hilly or ended on a downhill (like Boston), if it was really hot or really cold, your recovery will probably take longer.

The key is not to rush it. Trying to jump back into intense training can cause injury and prevent you from completely recovering. You want your tank to be full and ready to go to start training again, so give it at least six weeks before you start running hard workouts.

To give you an example (since how credible am I? I’ve never run a race longer than 8k!), SpeedyKate ran Chicago a month ago and is still not recovering from her runs as quickly as normal. And that’s ok – she ran hard and deserves a rest. She’ll start training again in December.

And another example – after my mama ran her marathons (back in the day when she was a speedy speedster), she took a whole month off running completely! This physical and mental break is good – it keeps you fresh, ready to go again, and excited for your next race!

Olympic champion Frank Shorter says: "You’re not ready to run another marathon until you’ve forgotten the last one." I can only imagine...