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Running again post marathon: managing expectations and setting goals.

Congrats marathoner!!! You have just completed your fall marathon and I know you want to ride this marathon high as long as possible! All you can think about is getting back out there on the road, planning future races, pushing harder and getting stronger and even faster for next time!

More miles? More strength? More speed? Yes, yes, yes!!! Doesn’t this sound magical, perfect and all sorts of wonderful? (pssst… if you’re one of those crazily obsessed marathoners, then it probably sounds like a little slice of heaven).

But then you take a few days off post marathon and your runner’s high starts to subside; sadly the post-race doldrums gradually creep in to fill the new gaps. Without a structured training plan you start to feel lost, purposeless and out of shape. Noooo! Not the dreaded sluggish feeling that you have worked so hard to eradicate during marathon training. Sadly, yes, the lethargic feeling that you’re experiencing post marathon is back and what’s even worse is that it’s a necessary evil to successful future training seasons.

But why is it a necessary evil? And what exactly is the best and safest way to return to running after a rigorous marathon training season and race?

Allow me to explain…

The first goal of all any training plan or coaching service to get the athlete to the starting line uninjured. The typical secondary goal revolves around maximizing the race day performance via minimizing mental/emotional burnout. In essence, most coaches want the athlete to ENJOY the training process, feel prepared for marathon and have a BLAST pushing their body to its limit come race day! Taken together the goals of keeping an athlete injury free and readily engaged in the training process are at the core of post-marathon recovery.

Marathon training does not end on marathon day, in fact athletes should consider the 4-6 weeks post A-race as a critical component of their training cycle. Just as a marathoner respects completing their weekly long runs in preparation for race day, athletes in pursuit of maximizing their potential understand the need for a post-race period away from training to fully recover both mentally and physically.

Whether an athlete prefers to view post-marathon recovery as the end of a training cycle or the beginning of a new one, either way recovery is an unavoidable, necessary evil!! So let’s learn about it and begin to embrace it as it will serve as stepping stool for future training success and setting PR’s!

Tips to running again post marathon

You have just completed a rigorous 4-6 months of marathon training culminating in 26.2 miles of amazing experiences. There is no denying that you are strong and fit! But the body and mind are tired. They have been working overtime for 4-6 months and need time to repair, run free and relax.

Have you ever considered taking 1-2 weeks completely off post-marathon to promote recovery?

Interestingly there is no fitness to be gained from running in the two weeks after a marathon. What if the time you would spend running during those weeks (and breaking down your body more) is better spent giving your body time to fully repair from previous training and then prepare for future beatings…errr I mean future training seasons?

6 Tips

1. Take a minimum of 7-10 days completely off.

2. Return slowly. Return by running every other day or even third day for a week. Consult with your coach for personalized suggestions (see #3).

3. Run easy. The goals of your reentry runs are to return injury free and begin to develop a base work of miles, not to get faster (not yet!). Complete all runs at conversational pace for 4 weeks post marathon and avoid speed work and tempo runs during this time.

4. Run short. Long runs are essential in marathon training as they serve to develop an athlete’s endurance and durability. Post marathon runners need to repair, not break down the body unnecessarily. Running shorter distances will allow the runner to safely develop a base before beginning future training.

5. Don’t use a training plan! If you want to run, run! If you don’t, don’t! Athletes should have at least a month off from a structured training plan to give them mental/emotional time away from the training mentality. Training requires a high level of focus and commitment; time away will allow athletes to mentally refresh and become hungry to train again!

6. Consult with Your26.2 coach to discuss your unique training history and durability and together devise a plan for your safe return to the road.

*Since I personally run too hard and too long without a training plan Coach Beth at Your26.2 crafted a very general plan for me to follow during my weeks away from training to prevent me from injuring myself. The plan gives me the duration and intensity of each run, but I can change the days around as needed. J All I can say is that an uninjured runner is a happy runner. Thanks Beth! 

-Kass Berry

Run happy.  And healthy!

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