You ran a marathon, what happens next?
Please remember that though I am a fitness professional, I am not YOUR fitness professional. You assume responsibility for your recovery! Please consult a professional on a personal basis.
Post marathon recovery is a highly searched and hotly contested subject. Any time you are getting ready for a big event, you have the epic lead up to the day. For runners, this is known as the “Taper Crazies.” PS, if you are looking for some help with those little voices in your head, check out my post for dealing with them. Taught Mama Salt everything she knows 😀 After your race, particularly if it has gone well, you go through the post-wedding/honeymoon/race blues.
Thus you get awesome posts like last Thursday’s. And also thusly why I waited until now for this post on post marathon recovery!
The First Week Post Race
Lay low. Do not make any big decisions like signing up for races or applying to coaching certification courses or swearing off physical activity forever. Speaking of, lay low physically as well. Your body is still repairing and figuring out what is and isn’t okay.
When my mother had her terrible riding accident years ago, she learned that for major trauma, this process can actually take months as your body performs its own triage. It will basically continue to figure out that things are wrong, so give it time to do that. Two days later, you will know what you are actually dealing with beyond just normal soreness. My little quad strain didn’t show up until a full 48 hours later, but because I knew that my body tended to do this, I was prepared for it and had waited.
Another big thing to remember? Stay the course with your nutrition. I realize that this may seem a bit confusing after my post last Friday, but allow me to explain: that post is about my long term respect of my body and learning to honor its cues rather than overriding them. Please be advised that the weeks before and after a marathon I make sure to stay the course with my nutrition (the exception being a decreased focus on whole grains and high fiber foods leading up to the event). In my mind, the week following a marathon is as important for your long term health and athletic goals as the week before the goal event. As I previously mentioned, your body is still repairing, and it needs calories as well as the proper macros–protein, carbs, fats, fiber–to do so optimally.
Take care of your body. Continue to stretch, reintroduce light yoga, walking, and rolling (if you can, get a good massage) to get the excess fluid and lactic acid out and flush out your system. I wear compression socks for a few days (particularly if I am traveling).
Last thing you need to do in the first week post big event? Celebrate. Revel in what you did. Soak it up. 5k or marathon, you did something. You went out for it. Don’t “punish” yourself if it didn’t go as planned. Rather, thank your body for what it did for you, the effort that it put forth, and know that next time, you might just need a different game plan. Or maybe it just wasn’t your day. But maybe it was! And that is exciting. (But also, don’t be a prat about it, mkay?)
Second week post big event:
Start to reintroduce the exercise that you did during the event, in small doses. Having run a marathon and knowing that I had some little micro-injuries that needed to chill out, I waited until 8 days after the race for any sort of running, and then I kept it slow and short, and will continue to do so. Just enough to see where things were and to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Many (especially elites) might even take 2 full weeks off! But for myself, I wanted to see where my quads really were before I started any strength training that might annoy them.However, if you are injured–and you will know if you are by now–obviously do not do this, and regardless, please do what is best for your body
Start to realize that you don’t need to eat like a marathoner all the time. This is where my post on Friday is coming in. I am, quite frankly, still feeling the itch to just go Medieval on things that are around me. Furthermore, because Alex isn’t around that much right now, I have time to myself at night to just scrounge, and no real structure to my eating during that time. So my goal with my nutrition is not to restrict my eating but to respect my eating. I hope that makes sense!
Start to consider your long term situation. I signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle at the end of March because I figure that I need to do it at least once while living in Chicago, lots of friends are doing it (we’re going to jump off a bridge after as well, wanna come? lol), and an 8k will be totally fine for me to do that far out. After TCM, I got back to running much quicker than I would have liked (12+ miles the weekend after), but they were worth it (so that I could coach and run with Deena Kastor), they were easy miles, and my body had proved to not have any injuries. I gave it another full week off after that, and then ran the week before Run10Feed10, which was a 10k. My legs obviously felt fresh and ready to go for that, so I have no complaints!
I have similar plans now–I am taking Erin’s class this coming weekend and the Shuffle is 3 weeks from now. Otherwise, I just have Ragnar in June! And I have decided that I will run Chicago in the fall–I am qualified, I won’t have to pay to travel, and for the SECOND TIME EVER Alex might get to see me run!
If you get nothing else from this post, please absorb the need to respect your body and the amazing thing that it has done for you. Know that getting back into it might feel good mentally and physically, or you might feel ready mentally but not yet physically. RESPECT IT. Have some fun after, sure! Sometimes you need to ignore your short term mental health in order to achieve long term mental and physical health. This is one of those moments.
And step away from the race registrations. Seriously. DROP IT.
What are some post-event mistakes that you have committed before?
How do you deal with the “honeymoon” post race blues?