Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marathon Recovery

I went for my first post-marathon run this morning and I’m not going to lie friends, it was kinda hard!

Recovering from a long race, especially if you want to race again anytime soon, is important.  So I’m trying to do it right. (Having never done long race, I’ve never needed to take a long recovery – this is all pretty new to me…tapering! Recovery! So many things!)

The I-just-ran-a-marathon-so-I-will-do-what-I-feel-like-when-I-feel-like-it philosophy totally wins out here. I don’t have to do anything, so if I want to do nothing, that is what I'll do!  (Buuuut clearly I like doing things. Things being running, preferably.)

Why should you take time off after a race? 

Because you need to recover well duh! Even if you think you feel good. There’s a thing called “micro-tear muscle damage” which basically means that you worked really hard and your muscle cells are hurt (even if they don’t feel like they hurt) and so you need to a rest to get back to normal.

Micro-tears are not scary at all – they’re what happens always when you work out. You micro-tear your muscle cells (get micro-tears in your muscle cells? I’m not sure if I can use micro-tear as a verb.) when you make them do more than usual. These minor ruptures in the myofibril proteins (which serve as cogs to contract muscles) causes muscle soreness, usually repair while you rest, and ultimately trigger the body to rebuild stronger muscles. (Disclaimer: my expertise here is purely via the Google.)

Slow exercise increases blood (and therefore oxygen) flow to muscles, which will help with your recovery. This is why it’s important to take easy days after hard workouts. But when you run a MARATHON, you may or may not have micro-teared (micro-torn? HA this is silly.) everything, which means you need to take a looong time to slowly recover.

Do you need to mentally recover? 

Frank Shorter says, "You’re not ready to run another marathon until you’ve forgotten the last one." Some people lose motivation to run when they don’t have a big goal race, therefore after finishing a marathon they feel a bit lost. OR if the race goes horrifically wrong – I imagine that would make getting back into running more difficult. Only you know you here – if running isn't making you happy or feel good, then don't do it!

I’ve never been a big goal-setter, and I always like running and training, so mentally post-race I'm good.

How much time should you take off? i.e. Reverse Tapering

One way to think of it is as a backwards/upwards/reverse taper – slowly run more and more as you feel better and better. Also, apparently running a marathon depletes your glycogen stores more than you think, so your reverse taper should involve a lot of hydration and carbs just like your actual taper did! (Hallelujah, am I right?)

It is reasonable and expected to take two weeks completely off after a big race. Coach George recommends 3-7 days of no running at all, followed by 2-3 weeks of very light running. Back when she was speedy, my mama took a full month off after her fastest marathons.

And all you crazy runners out there – yes I’m looking at YOU. And at me. Don’t worry we’re all in this together! – resting for seven to ten days will have little negative impact on your current fitness, and the long-term gains will outweigh any temporary reduction in fitness.

What I've been doing since the marathon: 

So I raced last Saturday (11 days ago). And luckily, last week I didn’t feel anywhere near as sore as expected. BUT as we have learned, just because I don't feel sore, doesn't mean everything is ok!

I took two days completely off post-race – two days that involved a lot of ice. Then I got in the pool to shake things out (ever so gently) on Day 3.

Small trash can + ice = fun?

By Day 5 (Thursday), I thought I was totally back to normal, but I definitely did not feel the urge to run.

Since then I’ve been puttering in the pool and at the gym, mostly to amuse myself and because, like I said, I like to do things.

Today was my first run and it felt odd, kinda like I forgot how to run. I also learned that I am definitely not recovered yet, so I may take some more time off. I’m over the pool…but other cross-training may have to kick in soon.


  1. Great post with great advice! It's good that you are taking ample recovery time and not pushing it.

  2. My trainer recommended I use a golf ball muscle roller to massage and really dig into my muscles which feels amazing and then I take Biosteel supplements which seem to help in the process as well. Check it out and see what you think?

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