overhead shot of marathon

Training: Marathon Recovery Essentials

What is a South African runner’s staple diet? Eating marathons for breakfast – especially those who prep for The Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon. But to get the most out of your performance, it’s important to give yourself some down-time after conquering the 42km distance. – BY RAY ORCHISON

We often disregard the toll a marathon places on the body. Think back to the last marathon you raced and how your body felt during and after the event. Keep in mind that your body changes significantly during a race. Blood is redistributed from the internal organs to the muscle tissue, rate and depth of breathing increases, and the heart is enlarged as a greater demand for blood is required. We also develop muscle damage over that distance, which lasts up to two weeks after the race. Many runners start to feel better when the pain disappears a few days later and think they’re ready to get back to full training, but rushing back is only going to delay the full recovery process.

Physiological Holiday
It’s important to ensure that you give yourself adequate rest following a marathon – you’ve put your body through so much, now give it a chance to heal and you’ll be back on the road in no time! Start by stimulating blood-flow into the damaged muscles to aid recovery: After a few days of complete rest, massage, light swimming and short walks will help get the blood flowing.

The recovery required is dependent on how hard the marathon has been raced. Even if the marathon simply forms part of your training for the bigger stuff, allow a few days of recovery and easy training to ensure better recovery. A typical recovery week after a marathon should look something like this:

Race day
Day 1 – rest
Day 2 – rest
Day 3 – rest
Day 4 – light sports massage
Day 5 – short, easy run
Day 6 – rest
Day 7 – easy run and foam roller massage

The Reverse Taper
Tapering for a marathon involves drastically cutting weekly mileage while increasing intensity the closer we get to race day. So if our peak training week is 100km, then Week 3 prior to the race will be 70km, Week 2 will be 35km and Week 1 almost nothing. A reverse taper is pretty much the same thing, but without the higher intensity runs: Your first week after the marathon would consist of full rest days with one or two very short runs and some massage. Week 2 would include three or four easy runs and massage, Week 3 could have five easy runs (a little longer), and by Week 4 you could resume normal training.

The most important is to listen to your body: If it is telling you to rest, listen! The consequence of ignoring those warning signs often comes in the form of injury or illness. As marathon season approaches, be wise in the marathons you choose to do. Think about what you’re going to be putting your body through and make sure recovery and rest are part of your programme!

Ray Orchison is a Johannesburg-based USATF and NAASFP certified coach. Find him at www.runetics.com or ray@runetics.com.

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