After experiencing the personal satisfaction of completing one’s first marathon, many runners are interested in resuming their training immediately. While completing a marathon is quite exciting and motivating, extreme care must be taken in the weeks following the marathon regarding the rebuilding mileage of to pre-marathon levels.
The effects on the muscular-skeletal system are tremendous, as muscles have experienced micro-trauma, a fancy word for very small tears of the muscular tissue that normally occurs as a result of the physical demands of the marathon. This is a normal occurrence. These tears require adequate time to heal and regenerate. Jumping right into a heavy training schedule will slow down the recovery of muscles and soft-tissue. Even if the micro-trauma damage is minimal, the soft connective tissue and bones of the body are in a vulnerable state immediately following the marathon.
To reduce the possibility of incurring an injury, a prudent approach to the full resumption of training should be taken. Some training resources state that runners should take a week or so off with no running after a marathon. Instead, it is recommended to engage in cross-training activities to maintain cardio-vascular fitness while at the same time, allowing the body to rest, recover, and heal. Listen to what your body tells you. If you are experiencing muscular soreness, walking or easy cycling are ideal activities to loosen up the legs the week following the marathon.
Check out the chart below for guidance in planning the resumption of your training. This schedule is based on the assumption that one’s weekly level of training averaged 40 miles prior to the marathon. You will note that for each subsequent week following the marathon, there is a 25 percent increase in weekly mileage. In this example, 10 miles can be safely added each week following the event.
Scheduling Your Next Marathon
How soon can you begin training for, and participating in your next marathon? The answer to this question depends on several factors. Some of these include, but are not limited to, years of running experience, type/intensity of the training program utilized for the previous marathon, energy/effort expended during that marathon, duration/completeness of leg recovery from the previous marathon, among many other factors.
Most experts say that two marathons should be the limit one should run per year (spaced six months apart). This rule applies both to the beginner and novice (regardless of marathon pace) along with the advanced runner who turns in a competitive (hard) effort. Experienced runners who complete their previous marathon at a moderate to easy effort may be able to compete another 26.2-mile race sooner than the recommended six-month waiting period. How much sooner depends upon the factors mentioned in the previous paragraph.