You've spent months training your mind and body to deliver an incredible performance and your race day was a success. You beat your goal time and qualified for your next marathon. What now?
It's time to take a little break so you can rest, recover, and rebound in time for your next race. This isn't to say you should stop running altogether - you don't want to lose your progress and have to work twice as hard to gain ground later on.
However, you do need some amount of recovery, both physical and mental, if you want to avoid complete burnout. Here are just a few ways to step back, take a breather, and virtually reboot your mind and body following a marathon.
In the immediate aftermath of a run, you're going to need at least a day or two of rest. Of course, you don't want to idle too long or your muscles will get stiff and sore and you'll start to lose the strength, stamina, and speed you worked so hard to build.
The answer is active recovery. You don't have to run all out like you did when training for your marathon, but you do need to keep up with a regular, albeit lighter, running schedule. Cut back a bit on your running and intersperse normal training with laid-back jogs that stretch sore muscles and help to bring needed blood, oxygen, and nutrients to healing muscles.
Hydration and nutrition are a big part of physical recovery and there are a couple of points you need to hit following your marathon. Plenty of water is a must, and you should work to replace electrolytes lost through sweating. Muscle recovery is also important, which means adding extra protein to your diet. Whether you're craving a burger or you'd rather add some whey protein to a smoothie for a lighter meal, don't skimp on the protein.
Whether you meet and exceed your race day goals or your fall short, chances are you're going to spend a lot of time thinking about anything that might have gone wrong, as well as how you can improve for the next time around. Do not get so caught up in this spiral that you forget to give yourself a pat on the back and move on.
If you simply can't stop thinking about the mistakes you made and it's driving you crazy, it's time to get it all on paper and out of your head. Sit down and make a list of everything you think you did wrong leading up to and during the race. When that's done, consider what you can do differently in the future, or discuss your concerns with a running coach or your peers.
It's not healthy to harp on the negatives - it will only drag you down and deflate your motivation. Make sure you also list out all the positives. Can't think of any? How about the fact that you had the fortitude to train for months, that your strength, stamina, and speed increased dramatically during training, or that you completed the race at all (when so many others may not have)?
Acknowledge your accomplishments and take pride in them. Use any negatives to create a new plan for future success. This is the best way to mentally recover after a race, whether you suffered an epic fail or you're the type to you find yourself poking holes in a stellar performance.
What's that you say? Running is fun? Yes, if we didn't enjoy running to a degree, we wouldn't train for and compete in marathons, but running isn't everything. It isn't your whole life, and chances are good you missed out on a lot of other loves in your life while preparing for race day.
Now is the time to take a step back both physically and mentally so you don't get burned out on running altogether. You shouldn't let your running schedule slide completely or you'll lose all your progress, but scale back for a bit so you can enjoy a few beers with your pals, catch up on Game of Thrones (you missed SO much), or finally get around to weeding your garden. This will provide the mental break you need to come back in a few weeks ready to train for your next marathon.
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