Marathon Recovery

At Front Runner Sports, our goal is to help runners make sustainable blue chip gains in performance so as to reach their best potential and personal goals. Our highly successful Integrated Marathon System of preparing runners of all ages and abilities to achieve their Marathon goals is typically broken into 5 key phases:

  • Regeneration Phase
  • Strength
  • Threshold Development
  • Race Specific Preparation
  • Peaking

The purpose of this blog is to look at the Regeneration Phase that lasts 4-6 weeks following a marathon event.

The old adage is that it takes one day to recover from every racing mile you run. So at 26,2 mile to the Marathon, the regeneration phase typically lasts 4-6 weeks .  The most important principle of this phase is to respect the physical, emotional and psychological challenge of the marathon (and the build-up) and allow a reciprocal period of recovery for the body, mind and immune system.

At a physical level, post-race is the perfect time to also analyse your “musculoskeletal system” and work out which areas of your body were most weak, inflexible or restricted in motion. A physiotherapist, exercise physiologist or personal trainer is the best person to conduct a screening and functional assessment within a few weeks of the race and start to implement a conditioning and “pre-hab” (i.e. before rehabilitation, so as to avoid injury) plan to better prepare your body for the next event. Try to identify the areas in your body that where sore or injured before or during the event and develop a plan to strengthen your running body in preparation for your next big goal. Investing in your running body is absolutely critical for longitudinal gains and building a base to enjoy your running long term.

The Marathon is the “perfect challenge” in so much as I have never met a Marathon Runner who doesn’t feel they could improve in some way from previous performances. It is really important that you process these thoughts logically and conduct a “SWOT” analysis of your most recent event within two weeks of the marathon. A SWOT analysis is a personal assessment of the strengths (S) of your previous preparation, the weaknesses (W), opportunities (O) to improve in next preparation and threats (T) or barriers to you achieving your next goal (think new baby, school holidays, moving house, surgery and anything that needs to be considered to plan for your next event). Try to be succinct and pick 3 key points in order of importance so your SWOT analysis is specific and targeted. Once completed, sit down with your coach or trainer to receive constructive feedback and consideration of your review and also look at areas that you may have missed that your coach feels may have held you back. This SWOT analysis needs to be honest and analytical and should then logically progress into planning your next SMART Goal and then developing a macro plan to help you achieve it.

In terms of physical training post marathon, the first 2 weeks we recommend that training is self-directed and that no runs exceed a steady pace (6/10 RPE) or last longer than 60 min. This helps ensure recovery of the immune and musculoskeletal system and also means that you still get some of the great psychological and mood based benefits that running offers. From weeks 3-6, training should remain at an easy or steady intensity but the duration and frequency can start to increase in readiness for moving into more structured training with your next goal in mind.

A summary of the phase can be found below:

Phase Running Specific Physiology Medical/Health
Week 1-2 Recovery weeks 1-2 with no runs greater than 60 min duration. Physiotherapist 2D Analysis Screening and Prescription of pre-hab and remedial conditioning (body weight, no resistance) OR 3D Gait analysis and longitudinal comparison
Week 3-6 weeks Weeks 3-6 No more than 1 * run/day. Easy/Steady Pace. Max Long Run 2hrs and limited intensity SWOT analysis . Set SMART goal. Meet Coach to review and develop plan overview for next event

 

Well done on your Marathon achievement! Taking the time to recover and plan for your next race effectively is pivotal to reaching your running potential and achieving your long term goals.