If you ran and completed the St. Louis Rock and Roll Marathon this past Sunday (or any marathon for that matter) and you want to continue running, the first thing you should do is decide on your future goals.
What would you like to do? Do you want to train for some shorter races so you can build up your speed? Or do you just want to continue to pile up the miles because you enjoy the long distances?
Whatever your decision, it’s important that for the first six weeks after your marathon you continue to recover properly. Whether it was your first marathon or your tenth, here’s how you should recover.
Do not run during this week. As I mentioned back in my post-marathon article, studies have shown that those who rest and do not run the first week after a marathon will perform better than those who do. If you think about it, this can lead to injury as you run, or try to run on soft, sore muscles. You are likely to favor one leg over the other, which is a sure recipe for injury.
Getting enough rest is so important at every stage of training, so continue to go to bed early and get at least eight or nine hours of sleep every night. If that sounds too much, understand that you just pushed your body through one of the most extreme forms of physical punishment. It needs the rest.
Make sure you eat a healthy, carbohydrate-rich diet. You want to build those stores back up.
This week you can add runs, but make sure they are light and short. Two to three miles, tops. Avoid hills.
Week three should be more of the same, but this time you can start throwing in some interval training at marathon pace.
By the way, unless you are in superior competitive shape, your weekly total mileage shouldn’t exceed fifteen miles.
You should keep doing easy runs for week four, but you can increase the distance to three or four. You can even throw in a long run, but no longer than five or six miles on easy terrain.
Add a tempo run into the mix to get you stretching your stride. Pay attention to your body…ease back if you feel like you are pushing it.
At week five you can start to stretch the distances of your runs, adding a mile or two to your shorter runs, two or three to your longer run.
However, keep in mind, do not over train. If you are lacking energy at the end of the day or notice it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning because you are too tired, pull back on your training. Avoid injury at all cost.
By week six you should pretty much be back to normal. Depending upon your level, you can start focusing on your next race or the next season. You can even run in a longer race at this point, say a 10k, but don’t plan on setting any records. Take it easy and enjoy the race and the people.
If your goal is to continue to run marathons and now you want to start running them faster, this is a good time to start looking at a speed program. Let me know if you’d be interested in seeing a speed program. I’d be happy to share.
Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.