Try This: Post Marathon & Intense Running Recovery Strategies

13 December 2014   Category: Wellness   Tag: , ,

by PagePink’s Stylemaker Dr. Derek Li

The marquee event on the Singapore running calendar, the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2014, has just passed, and many of us who took part in the race will still be in the throes of recovering from that race.

Post – Marathon Blues

Regardless of how you felt the race went, the first couple of weeks after a hard race is best spent recuperating and consolidating the fitness of the past few months’ training. It is not uncommon for people to experience post-marathon blues, particularly after a long hard race that one has been focusing on for quite a few months.

PagePink-post-marathon-tips Post-Marathon-Blues (Source)

Strategies for Post-Marathon

The lack of a clear goal in mind can make it difficult to find the motivation to re-introduce running into our exercise routines.

  • the intuitive thing to do is to find a new goal to train towards, and that’s fine as long as the next race does not come too soon. Another race should ideally be at least 2 months after the marathon, and it should be a shorter one like a 10km race. Rushing back into training too soon carries a high risk of getting you injured, as your ligaments and tendons have not fully recuperated from the effort to enable you to run with the proper form.
  • another common strategy is to go for a holiday abroad. This way, you keep your mind off running and can resume running in a week or two feeling refreshed.
  • a third option is to do alternative sports, as a form of cross training to avoid the tedium of running again so soon.

The Reverse Taper 

There are several approaches to resuming running after a marathon. One of the best,  is known as the “reverse taper”. As the name implies, just as you would reduce your running volume and intensity as race day approaches, so too would you increase your volume and intensity in the same general progression back to the usual baseline levels. For example, if you were running 60 mins each time in full training, and 30mins each time during your taper, you would restart training with easy 30 min runs for a week or two before increasing the duration gradually back up to 60 mins.

Cold Turkey to Gradually Increase Duration & Frequency

Another option is to go cold turkey for one to two weeks. When you start running again, gradually increase the duration and frequency. A standard rule of thumb is to increase the total weekly volume of running at a rate of no more than 10% per week (e.g. from 40km/week to 44km/week) unless you have had experience running at higher volumes for extended periods of time.

New Running Routes

Other things you can do keep things fresh include trying out new running routes. This is a good opportunity to explore parks and trails you don’t normally run, since the pace and difficulty of the run is not that important at this time.

PagePink-Post Marathon RecoveryNew Running Routes (source)

Cross Training

You might also want to consider cross-training e.g. spin classes, swimming or aqua jogging, or using the elliptical trainers as alternatives to running. These alternative provide benefits in several forms:

  • you train difficult muscle groups to add to your overall fitness
  • they place less stress on the joints and ligaments without compromising a lot on the aerobic benefits of cardiovascular exercise
  • it’s something you don’t always do, so there is the novelty factor that helps drive the motivation.

Strength and Conditioning Workout 

Finally, this is a good time to incorporate more strength and conditioning work into your routine. At this time, it is not crucial to keep up a high running volume, so use the opportunity to even out muscle imbalances and improve your core stability muscles so that you are in better shape to avoid injury when you do need to up your running volume.

These simple exercises can help you maintain a well-balanced core:

1. Invisible Chair

PagePink-invisible chair exerciseInvisible Chair (source)

2. Hamstring Bridge

PagePink-hamstring bridge

Hamstring Bridge (source)

3. Forward Plank

PagePink- Forward plankForward Plank (source)

4. Side Plank

PagePink-side plankSide Plank (source)

5. Reverse Plank

PagePink-Reverse PlankReverse Plank (source)

These exercises can also be done in quick succession without a rest break in between; e.g. 6 min sets ( 1 min for each exercise) and repeated for as many as tolerable. They may be done on non-running days as part of a general conditioning routine including things like lunges and squats, or as an adjunct to runs e.g. after the end of a run.

Running for Enjoyment

Running tends to be most enjoyable when running simply for its own sake without having to worry about intensity or duration, so enjoy this period and let yourself be flexible to new running routes, new exercises and even new shoes and equipment. There is no better time to experiment.

PagePink -Derek Li


Dr. Derek Li is a family physician by profession. His interests include taking part in marathons and triathlons. Derek has a marathon personal best of 2hr 42min at the 2014 Boston Marathon.


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