So you have trained hard for the past few months and finally completed that big marathon race. But regardless of whether you had achieved a new personal best or not, you have put your body through a lot of hardship and trauma during the marathon and now it needs a break.
However, some runners fear this recovery phase because they think that it will lead to a loss of fitness. After all, they have done so much work in training for the marathon, so by resting now that it is over, many believe that it is counter-intuitive. But this is not true. The body needs that well-deserved break, as many elite distance runners will attest to.
A marathon weakens the body
Running a marathon is physically damaging to the body, in terms of the skeletal muscles and cellular system, as well as the immune system. Even though you may not have sore muscles immediately after the marathon or any other physical problems for that matter, your long marathon run will definitely have had a negative impact on your body. This may be one reason why you could be more susceptible to catching colds in the days after completing your marathon. So do not go out and do, for example, another long 30km run, immediately after the marathon.
And as a result of these after-effects, training too soon after the marathon will lead to more problems, including having overused parts and injuries that may keep you out of running for an extended period of time.
Taking a break will not be harmful to your fitness
And while runners may disagree, taking a complete break from your normal training regime, for about seven to 10 days after your marathon will not be damaging to your fitness. Many elite runners will agree that such a break is very important and necessary.
After all, it takes three to four weeks to return to peak training levels after the big race, so you should not be training intensively during this period of time.
Easy running sessions are fine if you are feeling “itchy” to run
Easy exercise sessions, such as slow jogs at a comfortable running pace are fine, during this period of time. Especially within the first week post-marathon, this is especially important.
If you are getting itchy from not running or feeling fat from a lack of exercise, you can go out for an easy 5km to 10km run depending on how your body feels, or you can do cross-training such as cycling or swimming. But do wait for about three to four weeks to recover before you return to your rigorous pre-marathon training regime.