If you parked it on the couch the second you got home from finishing the Philadelphia Marathon two weeks ago and have barely moved since, I don’t blame you. I’ve done exactly the same thing after big races in the past, milking that afterglow for all it’s worth and telling myself I earned a good ol’ fashioned lazy-fest.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end. So I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Philly Marathoners, but it’s time to get back on that running horse, especially if you don’t want to lose all the fitness and endurance you worked so hard for. “Taking some time off after a big race is totally normal and necessary—your body needs to heal,” says Ross Martinson, owner of Philadelphia Runner. “But after about two weeks you start to lose some of that fitness.”
When you get back to running after a post-marathon break, you want to start off slow—a 30- or 40-minute run at an easy pace. Just be prepared for your body to feel a bit … off: “In the first couple runs your legs might not feel normal—almost wobbly. It’s not that you’ve lost that much fitness but it just takes a couple runs to get your feet back under you,” explains Martinson.
You might also have some lingering deep-muscle tightness from the race. It’s important to take the time to stretch after or during your runs to work out the kinks. Besides, the looser your legs, the more normal (i.e. pre-race) your runs will feel.
“Don’t be surprised, even if you just ran 26.2, how hard those first three miles are,” he says. “Just tell yourself you’re going to be okay in a couple runs.”
Martinson says whenever he runs a big race, he takes two weeks off from running, focusing on other low-impact activities like biking or putting in time on the elliptical. Then when he gets back to running, he does a few days of easy runs back to back to get over the hump. His weekend “long” runs aren’t that long at all—maybe an hour, max. Then, after a few weeks of easing back into it, he starts to ramp up the miles again.
If you need a little motivation to move, consider signing up for another race to give yourself a goal—maybe not a full marathon, but perhaps a 10K, 10-miler or even half marathon. (Here are a few of our favorite upcoming races for those looking for suggestions.) Or if you’re of the safety-in-numbers mindset, consider joining Martinson’s Team Philly race-training group; he says he’s sending the team its winter-training schedule on Monday.
And don’t worry if you’re not ready to lace up your running shoes quite yet. “A marathon and the training that goes into it can be tough on you psychologically, so a mental break from running is a good thing,” says Martinson. “You want to enjoy your runs. You almost want to wait until you want to go for a run before you do.”
Although, back-to-back 60-degree days sure makes it easier to swallow.