Post-race recovery generally follows a reverse taper principle: instead of cutting back the intensity as you normally would before a race, you do the opposite by gradually adding it back.
Many recovery plans suggest complete rest the first 2-3 days after a tough race, but it often depends on your pre-race training regimen. If you were running 50-70 miles a week before a marathon, you might log up to 17 miles of easy running on your first week of active recovery, which is about 25% of your pre-marathon mileage. That said, it’s still a good policy to rest as much as possible.
Remember that runners have a more vulnerable immune system after a hard run and are more likely to catch a cold or a lingering bug. Sleep in and eat right. Go for a balanced complex carb and protein diet to build up depleted glycogen stores and speed up muscle recovery. It goes without saying that fruits and veggies are your best friends.
Not sure how to start your reverse taper? Training Peaks’ Hal Higdon offers a few different starting points depending on your pre-race training load – click on the image below to see his Post Marathon Zero-Week Training Program:
If you would rather train by feel, Runner’s World suggests some helpful training goals for the first 4 weeks following a race:
- Week 1 – Aim for a quick recovery.
- Week 2 – Start running again.
- Week 3 – Gradually pick up your pace.
- Week 4 – Throw in a long slow distance run (LSD) that’s 2/3 to 3/4 your average LSD pre-marathon.
If, at any point, something hurts more than the usual muscle soreness – stop. Take a full rest day. Take your time. Enjoy the R&R.