Post Marathon Recovery : Intermediate

About the Intermediate Program

Recovery after the marathon should begin almost the minute you exit the finish chute. This 5-week post-marathon training program for Intermediate runners is designed to help you heal your wounds and recover as rapidly as possible so you can move on to new goals.

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At a glance

Author: Hal Higdon Length: 5 Weeks Typical Week: 1 Day Off, 5 Run, 1 X-Train Longest Workout: 90 minutes

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Hal on his Intermediate Program

This post-marathon training program is aimed at Intermediate runners, those of you who used either my Intermediate 1 or Intermediate 2 programs to prepare for your marathon. But even if you used another program designed by yourself or another coach, you can benefit from the following advice.

First, hold a mirror up to the final three weeks of either of my intermediate programs. That is exactly how you want to train (or not train) for the next several weeks. You might call this a reverse taper. The first three days, do nothing. Then a little running (or jogging or walking) just to loosen your muscles. Next a “long run,” same distance as your long run one week out. Oh, and finally some cross-training. Respect the mirror. It will help you rejuvenate your body and (sometimes more important) your mind.

Here is my Post Marathon Training for Intermediate runners:

Week 1: The first three days after the marathon, I want you to do nothing. And I mean nothing! Give your body time to recover. I hope, also, that you remembered to schedule a massage for these several post-marathon days. Continue to follow a healthy high-carb diet for maximum restoration of muscle glycogen. On the fourth day, go for a very short run of about 2 miles. If your muscles object, stop and walk. If various body parts hurt, do a quick U-Turn and get in the car. You’re not proving anything by running tough. You proved all you needed to prove in the marathon itself. On the weekend, do some cross-training to mix things up. Finally, go for a 60-minute run. Did I tell you how fast to run? No, I just want you out there on your feet for an hour.

Week 2: Is it time to start training seriously again? Not really. Bear with me for a while, at least to the end of this 5-week program. Even if you have a race scheduled for five weeks after the marathon, or soon after, you will gain no advantage by training hard at this point. Cross-train a half hour on Monday. The Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday workouts are easy-hard-easy, same pattern as the 18 weeks pre-marathon, but fewer miles. Wednesday’s dose of speedwork is 3 x mile at marathon pace. The long-run workout on the weekend offers an option of 45 to 75 minutes running. I don’t want you counting miles this soon.

Week 3: By now recovery should be nearing complete. Please note that I said nearing complete, not near complete. You still have a way to go, but glycogen replenishment for the muscles should be progressing. Some highly trained runners can restore muscle glycogen within a week, according to research by David L. Costill, PhD of the Ball State University Human Performance Laboratory. But other runners might take a month to recover completely. Tip: Maintain the same high-carbohydrate diet you followed going into the marathon. Yes, you need protein (and fats) for recovery, but carbohydrate remains the most important fuel in any well-balanced diet. A few ticks upward in speed or distance. Long run option: 60-90 minutes.

Week 4: In this fourth recovery week, we are getting closer to at least the same mid-week training you followed leading into the marathon. Two 5-milers in the middle of the week bracketing an interval workout slightly faster than the previous two weeks. Ninety minutes on the weekend for the long run. Don’t forget your cross-training. Did you do any strength training during your marathon build-up? If you have not gone back to the gym in the last week or two, consider once more strength training. As with running, however, keep the workout easy. Pump less iron than you might otherwise do.

Week 5: With recovery and my five-week program almost complete, consider a return to racing. The race distance could be 5K; it could be a full distance (13.1) half marathon. I suggest this only because for motivational purposes, it is often good to have goals. You don’t need to race flat out. Particularly if your end-of-the-tunnel race chosen is a half marathon, you might want to simply “run” the distance rather than “race” the distance. That means, picking a pace much slower than your fitness level at this point would dictate.

Post Marathon Training plan complete? You are now free to pick any one of my other training programs for your next race.

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Rest Rest Rest 2 mi jog Cross 3 mi run 60 min run
2 Cross 30 min 3 mi run 3 x mile (mar pace) 3 mi run Rest 30 min tempo 45-75 min run
3 Cross 30-40 min 4 mi run 3 x mile (10-K pace) 4 mi run Rest 35 min tempo 60-90 min run
4 Cross 30-50 min 5 mi run 3 x mile (5-K pace) 5 mi run Rest 40 min tempo 90 min run
5 Cross 30-60 min 5 mi run 30 min tempo 3 mi run Rest Rest Race
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Rest Rest Rest 3.2 km jog Cross 4.8 km run 60 min run
2 Cross 30 min 4.8 km run 3 x 1.6 km (mar pace) 4.8 km run Rest 30 min tempo 45-75 min run
3 Cross 30-40 min 6.4 km run 3 x 1.6 km (10-K pace) 6.4 km run Rest 35 min tempo 60-90 min run
4 Cross 30-50 min 8.1 km run 3 x 1.6 km (5-K pace) 8.1 km run Rest 40 min tempo 90 min run
5 Cross 30-60 min 8.1 km run 30 min tempo 4.8 km run Rest Rest Race

Additional Post Marathon Recovery Programs


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