Well, it’s been ages since I posted, but now that marathon madness is done and dusted for a while, there’s no excuse.
I didn’t run a spring marathon this year because I know I take a long time to recover from them and that would have got in the way of my ironman training. (And, as a novice cyclist, my biggest ironman gains will be from getting as strong as I can on the bike so that I’m not in pieces before I start the run). But I trained for, ran and re-lived Brighton, London and Stratford vicariously through my clients and WADAC club mates. Almost as good as the real thing… I particularly loved getting excited with the London first-timers. London is a FAB first mara.
Anyway, the point of this post is to emphasise the importance of recovery after a marathon. Proper recovery. That means at least a week off running, maybe two. There’s plenty of research to show that having a complete break from exercise after a major endurance event can have you recovering faster than doing even very gentle, conservative recovery runs.
The thing that catches people out is that, one the muscle soreness has subsided, people think they’re healed and can pick up the training again (and I use the word ‘healed’ on purpose). What people don’t realise is that the damage goes deeper than must sore muscles and joints. I intend to research this further and will post on here as and when I know more, but Nick Anderson – GBR endurance coach – explained it to me by saying that a marathon causes massive damage and disruption to our energy systems at a sub-cellular level. So even if we’re not feeling stiff any more, actually our muscles aren’t working optimally until the energy systems and sub-cellular structures are repaired and fully operational again. This can take up to a month – the rule of thumb is to take a day’s rest for every (running) mile raced.
It’s clearly a complex subject and not a lot of info is readily available.
After a few days complete rest, though, it’s good to do some active recovery to help get those muscles working and lined up again. Choose non- or low-impact activity like swimming, gentle cycling on the flat and walking.
Of course people run for all sorts of reasons – not just to get ready for a marathon or other key race. Once the training’s finished, there can be a bit of a void, even depression. I think people sometimes run too soon after a marathon for all sorts of reasons, not just a keen-ness to get back to training. People run to clear their heads, because it’s part of their routine, to minimise depression or to boost self esteem. Or because they’re addicted, even.
One of my clients ran a great marathon, despite a less than optimal preparation due to unforeseen circumstances. Three days afterwards, just before his post-race massage, he said that he ‘ought’ to go for a run that evening. We discussed the ins and outs of recovery and running too soon after a big race and he decided to give himself a few more days rest. When I started the massage, straightaway he felt soreness and discomfort throughout his legs. That was all the evidence he needed to convince him it was too early to run!