Choosing A Marathon Recovery Plan

Tis the season for strapping on your sneakers and heading into the great outdoors for a boost of endorphins and valiant hope that this will not only become a hobby, but yield a slimmer waistline as well.

5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon – everyone starts somewhere, often making their ultimate goal to compete in one of these races or build slowly up to conquer them all. Often hesitation lies not in the “Can I? Will I finish?” but in the recovery – what happens after the event.

5k, 10k – most individuals do not bear the burden of post-race injuries, blistered feet and missing toenails, but half-marathons and marathons can definitely leave you with a few hard-won battle scars.  None of those scars are as tough to bear as the avid runner’s inability to train again for up to 4 weeks after such a feat – at least that is what most running coaches recommend.

New York Times research columnist and reporter, Gina Kolata, completed her first marathon at the beginning of March in Boston. Her coach told her she should take four weeks off to recover, which got her thinking – what does the research say?

Kolata is an infamous NYTimes research writer, who has penned at least two stunning books on nutrition and exercise: Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss and Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth about Exercise and Health.  Her research is in-depth, credible and not without real hands-on experience.

Her initial dig into recovery after lengthy, intense vigorous exercise revealed that there simply was not much research out there. This is because this most viable way to determine recovery is to have someone complete the same activity again, varying the time in between and measuring performance, but asking a large number of subjects to run a marathon again is simply not feasible.

One expert speculates that most runners can be “back to normal” within two to three weeks if they train in reverse – meaning, train to run a marathon again, but start with runs that last no longer than 60 minutes and build up from there. (When training for a marathon, runners generally taper off the length and intensity of the run as the race draws near.)

Many coaches suggest it varies from runner to runner, but that being fully recovered is not just about being physically prepared, you have to be mentally ready too.

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