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The question of when to start running after you have just raced 26.2 miles has no clear answer, only more questions. How much training did you do leading up to the race? Did you have any injuries? How fast or slow did you run? How did you feel the morning after? And the list goes on.
Since there is no cookie cutter answer, we are giving you the tools to figure this one out for yourselves. By separating fact from fiction when it comes to running after marathoning, you can intelligently and informatively decide your own timeline.
FACT: The marathon damages your body.
Do not let the word “damage” scare you, instead treat it with the respect it deserves, just as you did with the distance of the marathon.
Everything from muscles, tendons and ligaments to your immune system take a beating over 26.2 miles and needs adequate rest and recovery time to repair the damage. Just as you would take an easy day after a hard workout to restore your mind and muscles, you need to multiply that time by the distance you just covered, and take some much needed time off.
Follow the leader: In a recent interview, 2016 Olympian Desiree Linden, who is part of the Hanson-Brooks Distance Project said she takes “two weeks off and then two weeks very easy.”
FICTION: Taking downtime negatively impacts your fitness.
Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact, starting back too quickly and aggressively will have a much more negative impact.
Numerous studies talk in depth about how long it actually takes to lose fitness, based on the measurement of VO2 Max. There is very little reduction in the first 6-7 days and then, only a 6 percent decrease after six weeks.
Follow the leader: Injury derailed Olympic runner Meb Keflezighi for two weeks while he was preparing for the 2012 Olympic trials. He took the necessary time and precautions to heal his body and then placed fourth in the race. Boom.
FACT: Most all experts and professional coaches agree to take one week off.
Although overall times can vary drastically from person to person based on specificities, most coaches and running experts agree on resisting the urge to run long or hard for one week.
Here is a post-marathon week at-a-glance you can bullet journal and then execute:
Day 1: rest, eat, bask in the awesomeness of your accomplishment
Day 2: easy walk, stretching
Day 3: hot tub or heat to sore areas if needed, walk and stretch
Day 4: very easy, short run and stretch or cross train (try aqua jogging)
Day 5: rest, add heat, stretch
Day 6: easy, longer run (think 4-5 miles)
Day 7: walk or cross train
Days 8-14: Very easy and shorter runs, 4-6 miles, 3-4 days a week
Days 15-22: Continue a slow build of 5-8 miles, 4-5 days a week
FICTION: Get a massage as soon as possible!
Sorry runners but it is definitely not a good idea to mess with your muscles for at least 3-5 days after running a marathon. A lot of professionals suggest either an ice bath directly after your epic effort or, after a few days, alternating ice and hot baths (apparently this is called contrast bath) depending on your level of soreness.
As for the deep tissue massage, it’s best to let your overworked muscles settle down for at least 3-5 days before letting a professional masseuse work out the kinks. According to Matt Fitzgerald, athlete, running coach, author and nutritionist, “Anything more than a gentle, superficial rubdown could actually increase the inflammation and muscle tissue breakdown you’ve incurred through the race and from which you now must recover.”