Whether your marathon went perfectly, or you were left disappointed with your result, one thing remains the same: you need to take your marathon recovery seriously. Good marathon recovery isn’t just about taking a break from running (though that’s certainly a big part of it), there’s more to consider.
Getting started? Here’s your first marathon training plan.
Marathon recovery: Rest
Most runners head out for a run too soon after their marathon. If you love running, it can be difficult not to lace up your trainers and head out there. But proper marathon recovery is important: without it you’re at a greater risk of picking up injuries that could keep you away from running for a longer period.
After a marathon, take at least a week off from running completely. Many runners head out for a ‘recovery run’ in the days after a marathon believing that it loosens up still legs and helps them recover. But, for now, the best recovery is rest. You can still keep active by walking, swimming or doing some easy cycling, but resist the temptation to put your running shoes on.
After a week, you can ease yourself back into running if you feel ready. Stick to easy-paced runs and keep your mileage low for the first couple of weeks.
Marathon recovery: Nutrition and sleep
Running a marathon is a massive feat for your body, and it now needs your help to recover and repair. Feeding your body well will give it the tools it needs to repair itself. It’s important that you get enough protein, starting from the hour that you cross the finish line, as this will help with repairing damaged muscles. But making sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet this week will also help with your recovery.
Sleep is when your body does most of its repair work. So try to get a good night’s sleep this week. You may have been out celebrating on the evening of your race and then had to get up early for work the next day – or to check out of your hotel, but sleep is important for the whole of this week. Give your body what it needs.
Marathon recovery: Self-assessment
In the week after your marathon, set aside some time to reflect on your training and racing. This will be important, whether you plan to take on another or not and whether you got the result you wanted or came away disappointed.
Reflect honestly on your training: did it all go as planned? Where could you have done things differently? Think about your race: how was your pacing, your nutrition plan, your kit? There’s plenty of elements that go into a successful marathon, both in the preparation and on race day. Make sure you capture the things you did well and the places where you can improve. Write these down somewhere.
post marathon blues
It’s not just your body that needs time to recover from the marathon – your mind needs a break too. Marathon training can be stressful. Racing a marathon – however much you enjoyed it – can be very mentally draining and the comedown from the race can result in what’s known as the ‘post-marathon blues’.
It’s only natural to feel a bit down after the marathon – it’s been a big focus in your life for the past few months and now it’s over. Take care of yourself, check in with friends and focus on things you enjoy outside of running that you may have neglected recently. It’s natural to not feel like running for a while. Don’t put any pressure on yourself but try to keep active.
Planning what’s next
You may feel you want to take a break from running and focus on other things in your life, and that is absolutely fine. But if you are someone who thrives with a running goal to work towards, now is the time to think about what that next goal might be.
Even with your reduced mileage while you recover, your endurance is going to be high from all of your marathon training. It’s a good time to turn your attention to shorter distance races. A 10k or 5k PB could be on the horizon if you first make sure you’ve recovered well from the marathon.
If you’re thinking of signing up for another marathon later this year, it’s vital that you recover well from the one you’ve just run first. Don’t be tempted to rush back into your long runs. Instead take a bit of down time before your next marathon training plan starts – you can follow a marathon base training plan until then to keep things ticking over.