The Role of Recovery in Marathon Training

The Role of Recovery in Marathon Training

By Nordic Balance

Over the last few years, the number of regular runners in the UK has kept steadily increasing. Currently, around 16% of us enjoy at least an occasional jog, and 16 million UK adults stick to a weekly run.


But, for many amateur runners, their training is all self-taught. While #running has 4.9 billion views on TikTok, there is a danger of running being approached as an ‘easy’ or ‘foolproof’ sport.


In reality, while running is fantastic for your whole-body health, it’s vital that you get it right. Without considerate training, particularly with your approach to recovery, running can have a damaging impact on the body.


Previously, Physiotherapist Jean-Vincent (JV) shared his 5 top tips for marathon training. In his latest edition, an ‘Expert’s Guide to Marathon Training’, JV will be focusing on running recovery.


To ensure you achieve the best possible results from your training, and keep your body in peak condition, have a read of JV’s guide to the role of recovery in marathon training. 


What are the common causes of injury in marathon training? 


Road runners, especially when covering long distances, are prone to repetitive strain injuries. Repetitive strain is a general term for injuries caused by overuse, or the same movement is repeated over and over again. These injuries usually occur in the soft tissue of our body (muscles, nerves and tendons) but can sometimes affect the bones.


That’s why it’s vital that you understand the best ways to minimise the risk of injury and use your recovery periods to the fullest possible advantage. 


JV recommends that you consider changes to your training carefully because, if taken too far, they can cause repetitive strain. 


“If you recently increased your training load (by adding more distance, more intensity, hills, or another type of sport, for example), or if you recently changed your shoes for a different model, or if you recently changed your technique, this can result in a ‘stress’ for your body, and you will have to dedicate more effort in your recovery.”


Secondly, lifestyle factors also play a key role in the success of marathon training. According to JV:


“We must acknowledge that: lack of sleep, poor diet, poor hydration, excess of alcohol, cigarettes, some medication and also our mood (stress, anxiety, depression) can negatively affect our ability to recover from a training session.”


Without carefully managing these factors – both during your runs and throughout your recovery period – injuries could arise, putting a complete halt to your training.


What is the best way to incorporate recovery into your marathon training? 


The recovery periods are the times when your body is recovering from a training session. 


JV stresses that “when planning your training, you should also plan your recovery. Many studies agree that it allows the body time to repair and strengthen itself between workouts.


“If you don’t give enough attention to it, you might slowly bring your body into a state of overtraining which ultimately might be counterproductive and lead to illnesses and injuries.”


For example, JV himself recently completed his first marathon. Since this event, he took ten days off running to allow his body time to recover completely, “not just from the physical muscles aches that lasted around 72 hours, but also from the mental and physiological fatigue.” 


As you can see, factoring in sufficient recovery time is critical based on the nature of the runs you are doing. 


You can use running apps to estimate your optimal training load, as many modern apps offer this function. They create this estimate based on your training sessions’ overall intensity/duration. But, while this is handy as a ballpark figure, remember that it doesn’t take into account your lifestyle habits and stress levels, which could increase your overall load.


Other ways to use your recovery time correctly include having a good lunch in the first couple of hours after the race. This will help your body quickly recover the stocks of glycogen (carbohydrates) in your muscles. 


Sports massage is another excellent way to relieve your muscle pain and improve the blood flow in your legs for a faster recovery post-workout.


Running Physiotherapy and Prehabilitation 


Jean-Vincent is a Physiotherapist at the Nordic Balance St James’s and Abbeville Road Injury Rehabilitation and Wellness Clinics.


After graduating in France in 2009, JV specialised in Sports Physiotherapy, which paved the way for a dynamic global career. In fact, he has worked in a ski resort in the French Alps, offered physiotherapy in major events (Ironman, Ultra-marathons, Swimming championship, Rugby world cup and TOP14), and was the Lead Physiotherapist for the Georgian national rugby team from 2012 to 2015.


When he moved to London, he developed his expertise in managing and preventing running and cycling injuries.


For more guidance on overcoming common running injuries, or to enhance performance check out our 360 Degree Running Analysis at Nordic Balance St James’s.

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