The final installment of the “Run Your Healthiest Marathon” series is here! Today we’ll pick up where we left off, with the idea that it is better to show up to the starting line slightly undertrained than overtrained.
Of course while the first step of getting to the start line is staying healthy and training optimally throughout the cycle, the second step is a well-executed taper. I find that athletes who have coaches are more likely to dial back their training sufficiently during the 2-3 weeks before race day to have plenty of energy on the starting line, because they are less likely to succumb to the “taper crazies” and continue training per usual. Tapers are highly individual and can take some experience to execute properly. However, the taper period is always a good time to focus on the little things: sleep, hydration, fueling, and getting the body ready to go. Spend the extra time you have from running less on foam rolling, mobility work, walks to keep the blood flowing, and potentially schedule appointments with your care team: your PT, massage therapist, etc. While you should still keep up with your maintenance strength routine up until the week of the race, dial back any exercises that are challenging and likely to leave you sore.
From here, we’ll assume that you crushed your race. The next big question is how to approach recovery, and again this is variable depending on your experience with the distance, how hard you ran, nature of the course, etc. Regardless of these factors, I recommend taking at least a week off of running. Use the time to reset mentally and physically, and cross train only as desired. Rushing through the recovery can lead to injury in the next month or two as you ramp training back up. Before you go for your first post-marathon run, make sure you check off the boxes of this list:
No pain with walking/running
Minimal to no muscle soreness, and no muscle soreness that is only on one side of the body
No difficulties falling asleep or waking up
Morning resting HR back to pre-race normal
Normal appetite levels
For some people this may be as long as two weeks, or longer if an injury occurs during the race (but of course if you’ve followed the advice of this series, that shouldn’t happen!). Get any issues checked out by your PT early on to make sure that it resolves as quickly as possible.
Also, consider building in 2 periods a year where you take a significant break from training, or possibly even exercise at all. This is something I personally have struggled with, but have found it helpful for keeping me healthy for the times that I’m training harder. I would recommend taking a week with little to no exercise. You can be active in other ways, but definitely nothing that looks like your regular training. Your body will thank you.
Thanks for following along in this series, and best of luck in your next race!
Keep going, You got this!
Kacy Seynders, PT, DPT