Recovery & Active Rest
I got an e-mail a couple of weeks ago from a reader about when to start training again after a marathon. That is a pretty broad based question and the answer depends on all sorts of things including the training background and goals of the athlete, the course he or she just ran, and just how sore and tired the runner was after the race. Here are a few things to think about.
Delayed Muscle Soreness
After a period of exercise, especially trying something new, people frequently experience so-called delayed muscle soreness that usually peaks about 48-72 hours after the bout of exercise. This can also happen after something like a marathon and downhill running is a notorious way to generate delayed muscle soreness. The idea is that microdamage to muscle and inflammation lead to the soreness and pain. Going down stairs is particularly uncomfortable but going downstairs backwards typically is much easier. What is interesting is that things like stretching and cold water immersion post-exercise don’t seem to help that much. Drugs like ibuprofen can help with the soreness but may not improve muscle function either. The best way to avoid delayed muscle soreness is to start a new program slowly. One key for running races with a lot of downhill is to actually do some training going downhill.
Training After a Marathon
The rule of thumb is that it takes about 1 day per mile to recover from a race. So 6 days for a 10k and 20 plus days for a marathon. I am not sure where these rules of thumb came from and again they would depend on how trained the runner is and a lot of the individual factors mentioned at the start of this post. However, there is some research on what happens when people do run in the days right after a marathon and whether it speeds recovery. In a classic study from the 1980s, scientists at Ball State University studied 10 young male runners who ran a marathon on average in less than 3 hours. Half of the runners ran for 30-45 minutes per day the next week, and half rested. The authors concluded that:
“Seven days rest postmarathon did not allow complete recovery of maximum peak torque (MPT) nor did exercise facilitate recovery of work capacity. To prevent impairment of the normal course of recovery postmarathon, exercise intensity and duration must be judiciously selected.”
So what to do? After something like a marathon give yourself at least a week or two to recover. One idea is to use something called active rest. This might include things like cycling, swimming, or deep water running for a few days at 50% effort for about 30 minutes until the delayed muscle soreness has passed. Then slowly add a bit of running. Daily training is a part of the routine for most people who do marathons so there is no need to get out of your routine. However, there is nothing magical about “running the next day”, so give it some time and substitute other activities. One of the nice things about both biking and swimming is that they seem to generate much less of the soreness associated with running.
This entry was posted on Monday, January 28th, 2013 at 6:24 am and is filed under Current Events, Elite Sports Performance, Research and Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.