Post Marathon Training Tips
Having raced in a marathon, half marathon or relay, you might be trying to decide how you want to continue with your training.
As I see it, there are 3 choices:
- That’s it; I’ve had enough, and I am never running again!
- I’ll take some rest time and then gradually ease back into training again and plan for the next big challenge!
- I’m going to get straight back into training again to prepare for another upcoming race!
It is my hope that you’re not in Group 1.
With a good trainer, sound advice and preparation for the event, you will have achieved your goals, finished comfortably and want to continue with your training. It’s always hard to decide what you want to do when the body is tired, sore and feeling a bit battered. Now that you’ve had a week to recover, hopefully you’ve forgotten the lows. Focus on the highs and start back into training.
If you’re in Group 2, congratulations! I hope you’ve enjoyed your week of rest, but it’s now time to restart the training and plan for your next adventure. This may be another run, a longer or shorter event, or it may be a completely different event. By following the post marathon training tips below, you’ll be better prepared to achieve your goals.
Group 3, you’ve probably started back into training already. If so, remember to heed some of the points below also. You may have exceeded your expectations for the Marathon making it very easy to get caught up in the euphoria and push the body too hard, too soon after a tough event. Conversely, if you did not achieve your goals, it’s also easy to push too hard, too soon in order to achieve more in your next event.
Whatever Group you are in, the one overriding consideration to follow is: Listen to your Body! You’ve put your body through a lot of stress and strain.
So what does “Listen to your Body” mean? It can mean different things to different people; however, we recommend following these guidelines:
- If you’re sore or injured, take a break.
- If your sleeping pattern has changed, take a break.
- If your appetite is wrong (either eating less than normal or eating more than normal), take a break.
- If you are constantly thirsty, drink more quality water and take a break.
- If your muscles are sore, get them massaged. Use either a foam roller or book in for a sports massage.
- If you have structural pain – e.g. joint pain in the knee, ankle, back, or hip – take a break and visit a referred Physiotherapist and follow their protocol.
- It’s also a good time to assess your running shoes. You may need to re-invest due to wearing out your existing pair. If the cushioning does not rebound like before, they need to go in the bin.
What is the best training to start with?
I would suggest doing some cross training, anything that doesn’t involve impact on the body. Cycling, either indoor or outdoor, is an excellent way to fulfill your training without stressing your body too much. Rowing and using a Cross Trainer are also excellent alternatives.
Reduce the pounding on the body, and if you do feel the need to go back running, use either a Treadmill or run on grass for the first couple of weeks. This is far less stressful on the joints, and you’re less likely to develop soft tissue or stress related bone injuries.
Train using a heart rate monitor.
Following the stresses of the race, you want to keep your exercise heart rate at no greater than 75% of your maximum heart rate. This allows you to train while not overloading your system. Also, do not strictly follow a training plan; train according to how you feel. This is the opposite of the training that you completed for the event, but this allows for the body to have good days and not so good days. So listen to the body!
After my week of rest, how far do I run?
Having rested and listened to you body, start back training using the above cross training methods. Then introduce 2 gentle runs in the week, ideally on grass or a treadmill. Keep your intensity low by using the heart rate monitor. If a friend tries to get you to run further, gently decline and stick to your recovery plan. We all want to run as far as we can, but remember we need to build up the runs again.
If I feel good, what should I do next?
If you have successfully come through the first 3 weeks after the event without injury, you can now start to increase your runs. However, they need to be balanced with rest days. Introduce strides or accelerations into your sessions. Following the marathon, you are stronger but may be slower. These sessions will help you to increase leg speed.
After these workouts, you can start to introduce distance work by doing some tempo runs. These are not as tiring on the body as interval sessions, but they will help to improve your overall lactate thresholds. You’re now ready to start interval sessions again, in preparation for your next event. This is probably 6 weeks after the event.
The moral of the story is to ensure you do not do too much, too soon and that you are sensible and listen to your body. Arrange your training around how you feel! Enjoy your training, and I hope you achieve all your goals in your next session!