After Marathons 1 through 7, it took me almost a month to feel like my old self again. My legs felt heavy; my pace felt sluggish; I started to drool into my pillow at about 9:15 most nights. But this year, for Marathons 8 and 9, I’ve taken a new tactic: Instead of resuming to run a few days after the race, I’m now taking a full week off from exercise—and, oh, what a delightful difference it makes. My arse isn’t dragging, either proverbially or almost literally. I ran the Twin Cities Marathon on October 7, and my first run after it was just yesterday—an easy four miles. My legs felt fresh, and I was so excited to hit the road again, I practically skipped out the door. Here are five tips for pushing the reset button after a 26.2- or 13.1-mile race:
Give your body a break. You just asked your muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments to carry you 26.2 miles—they deserve some R&R. When I read on our Facebook page that mother runner Janet had conquered the Long Beach Marathon on October 7, then run eight (8!) miles on October 9, I winced and clutched my quads. Trust me: You won’t lose your fitness gains in a few days, and you’ll return fresher if you take a week or 10 days completely off of running after a marathon, or three to five days after a half.
Be vigilant about self-care. I always try to budget for a massage two days post-race. The therapists works out tight spots and potential problem areas I don’t know exist until she lays hands on them (hey, calf muscles, I’m talking about you!). The weeks and month following a big race are also the time to cozy up to your foam roller, The Stick, or frozen bottle of water. Roll, roll, roll away…
Make alternate plans. After the high of crossing the finish line subsides, it’s natural to feel some post-race blues. You’d been looking forward to, and training for, your big races for months, and now it’s over. Instead of throwing yourself immediately into a new training cycle (see above), find some non-running ways to fill your time. Go see that new Oscar-worthy movie everyone is raving about; head to the pumpkin patch with your kids (once your legs let you bend down to pick a pumpkin!); sort through your winter clothes and put away your summer ones. After returning from the Disneyland Half last month, I found cleaning out our freezer incredibly therapeutic; this past weekend, I used my “extra” time to plant daffodil bulbs.
Cross-train. Now is a great time to do that Bikram yoga class your friend has been raving about or to shake your moneymaker at a Zumba class. I’m considering taking boot camp three days/week instead of my usual two. Make the most of your freedom now that you not tied down to a training plan!
Then…start plotting your next race. Another 26.2, or shift to busting a move in the 5K? Maybe you’ll decide to focus exclusively on halfsies. There’s no right or wrong answer after a big race. After taking last week completely off, I’m jumping into Week 5 of the Half-Marathon: Own It plan from Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity. The plan is to pull two pals to a sub-2:00 finish at Portland’s Holiday Half.
Now, share with us: How do you recuperate and recover after an epic race?