So you just ran your goal race for the season, and are riding a high and eagerly filling your calendar for next year. First, congrats! It’s an exciting feeling to finish your goal race – especially a marathon. It’s also common to set new goals, get excited for the future, and get back out on the road to get back to work!
Relax. Rest. Recover. Most marathoners jump back into running or running hard way too soon after their goal marathon. I understand the excitement. And many runners get nervous they will lose the fitness they spend literally months building. The idea of taking a few weeks off sounds unacceptable. There’s a fun half marathon in a week or two. There’s that Turkey Trot – I can’t possibly miss it!!!! Yes. You. Can. You need to remember a few things after crossing that finish line. The choices you make in the few days/weeks following that goal race can have huge implications on your future as a runner. I know, you may feel decent. But that doesn’t mean your body is actually recovered. In fact, injury risk is extremely high after a goal marathon, and immune systems usually drop briefly. This is your prime opportunity to get sick. Or injured. And you may not feel injured until a few months from now.
It’s a blessing but also a curse to have so many races hosted every weekend. The feeling of missing out, skipping an opportunity, not running with friends – I get it. But it usually isn’t worth going and putting your body through stress when it isn’t ready. The consequences could mean being forced to stop running for a few months or even a few years. And don’t underestimate mental burnout. Your brain needs some time to rest, reset and be on board to train for your new and exciting goals.
Maybe now you are on board with the recovery for a few weeks, but not happy about it. Okay, here are a few tips and things you can do to enjoy this time while losing minimal fitness and staying active in the running community:
- Volunteer or go cheer at upcoming races in your area.
- Ease into some easy cross training a week or two after your marathon.
- If you dealt with injuries during training, address them now. See a doctor or physical therapist. Address weakness, tightness, and habits. We all have them.
- Revamp your nutrition and cut back a bit on all those carbs and focus on fruits, veggies, lean proteins – try new recipes and have some fun in the kitchen!
- Maybe try yoga, pilates, and a weight training routine during your recovery.
- Catch up on sleep, your social life and any projects that were on the back-burner while marathon training.
- Throw a party to celebrate your achievement! You may inspire a few friends to run the next year.
- When the dust settles, write about your race experience. What worked well, what was tough or a mistake, and be honest. Your running journey will adapt over time. Learn from each race.
- When you ease back into running, do it with no pressure or expectations of time. leave the watch at home and go by effort and simply enjoy the miles.
- Trust that your body will bounce back and loss in fitness will be minimal, while injury risk will be extremely low and your body and brain will be ready to dive back into working hard.
Congrats again on your recent achievements! Now recover. As I say to my athletes, the rest and recovery is just as important as the hard work. Now is the time to really embrace that process. I want you clocking happy, healthy, and strong miles for years to come.