For many years, the longest run I ever trained for was a 10K. I usually ran consistently, but would really ramp up a training program about 2-3 months prior to the 10K. Inevitably after the 10K I was always likely to fall off the running bandwagon, sometimes for a week or two, sometimes for a month or more. The last several years I have participated in the local 10-miler and would train for that for months only to also take the same “break” from running as I had once the 10K was complete. Weeks or more would go by with no running at all.
These lapses from running were by no means my intentional post-race recovery plan. Perhaps it was the time of year, my busy work schedule, my lack of motivation once the run was complete, but I never had a post-race plan and so I would simply drift away from running for a bit.
Training for a marathon is slightly different than training for a 10K or 10-miler but I admit to having had the same fear that I might fall into a non-running slump post-race. This has been a strange week though because I feel like in a way I lost a little part of me. People have written about this strange feeling of loss post-marathon and I never really understood that until now. You spend months and hours of your life preparing for one moment and all of a sudden when it’s over so is everything you’d been working toward. You have achieved what it is you set out to achieve and so you are essentially right back where you started. Clean slate. This is an opportunity that you have to be willing to run with again.
Develop a Mental and Physical Plan
Post-race recovery for me is much more mental than it is physical, though the physical is absolutely critical to long-term success. For three days I have felt antsy, guilty for not running, off-kilter without running as part of my morning routines, and yet slightly relieved that I have been letting my body relax, be still, and repair. My past behaviors make me fear a little bit that I will stall running, but I am grateful for knowing how much I have come to love this sport and my eagerness to be running and training again will no doubt overpower my fears. The fact that I continue to be consumed with thoughts and plans for “the next one” are also encouraging.
So what is my plan? This first week has included very simple stretching, icing, foam roller massaging, yoga, and easy activity. While I understand that my muscles, and my IT band in particular, need time to repair I am ready to get back into cardio work that will boost my heart rate. I’m grateful that I learned to love the bike recently and will likely use the next week to log time on the stationary bike at least 4 days with some strength training and Pilates mixed in. That gives me three weeks to build back up my running and hopefully increase my pace to 8-minute miles for my 10K race April 4th. A bit ambitious? Maybe. Worth trying? Definitely.
My post-race recovery plan is entirely based on feeling good, remaining focused, and building back up at a level that is comfortable for me. I could not run the marathon alone and I cannot recover alone. I have learned from others about what worked for them and have customized a stretching, cardio, and new training plan that works best for me and my goals. I plan to focus on the muscles that felt weakest during my last run (lower back, glutes, ankles) and will be including more dynamic stretching to the beginning of each work-out as well as proper cool-downs after.
Post-race recovery for me will be a very new beginning and I look forward to starting fresh.