Leading up to a race, it’s important to plan your training accordingly to avoid overtraining. But you may not know that overtraining can also apply to returning to a running program too quickly after a race. I frequently see runners who put lots of energy into a training program but fail to let their bodies properly recover once the race is finished.
Everyone recovers differently, but your body can’t fully heal from a tough running event if you continue to work it hard without allowing ample time for recovery.
There are many schools of thought on how long to rest after a race. One rule of thumb that has been around for years (and has no scientific basis but is easy to remember) is one day of rest for every mile of the race. Many recent studies estimate that it takes 3 weeks to rebuild your glycogen stores after a marathon. It is best to do a 3 week reverse taper after a marathon. In other words, take the last 3 weeks of the training plan leading up to the race and do it in reverse after the race to slowly build up your mileage. Runner’s World also has a Structured 4 Week Recovery Plan which can work well after a marathon.
Remember that rest is important. Your body needs time to restore glycogen, heal muscle fibers, and generally get your body back to proper function. By taking the time to recover correctly, you’ll avoid excessive fatigue, overtraining and in the long run probably be more motivated to get back into a regular running routine.
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Tony Connot, PA-C, is a Physician Assistant in OrthoCarolina’s Pineville office, a runner and also provides orthopedic services for South Mecklenburg High School and Fort Mill High School.