With marathons becoming more popular worldwide, higher numbers of amateur runners decide to take the challenge and complete the Pheidippides distance.
Nevertheless, completing a marathon imply a high strain over the body, whose effects can last for days after the race. Among the main symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) there is soreness, swelling, impaired motion and reduced neuromuscular function (connection between nervous cells and muscles). All these symptoms limit the runner’s ability for returning to normal training.
Consequently, optimizing marathon recovery is key for runners to pursue training routines.
A recent study analysed the effects of two types of exercise (running or elliptical training), and resting of the neuromuscular performance and muscle damage recovery during post-marathon week.
64 runners of the Valencia Marathon 2016 participated in the study, divided in three groups: Rest, Run or Elip. They were aged between 30 and 45, healthy and with marathon PB between 3 and 4 hours (males) or 3h30m and 4h30m (females).
They performed two tests:
- a cardiopulmonary exercise test (VO2max), using a treadmill, 2 to 4 weeks before the marathon.
- a neuromuscular performance test, using a squat jump (jumping as high as possible from a partially flexed position), before and after the race, and 48, 96 and 144h post-marathon.
All participants didn´t train for the first 48h after the race. Then:
- RUN and ELIP groups trained 48, 96 and 144h after the marathon, or in other words, 2, 4 and 6 days later (40 minutes at moderate intensity in alternating days).
- REST group didn´t go back training until day 8 post-marathon (1 whole week resting).
- Muscle damage recovered equally exercising (run or elliptical on alternated days at moderate intensity) and resting.
- Runners who did a running training session 48h post-marathon showed an enhancement of neuromuscular performance (squat jump test) at 96h, unlike participants who rested or used elliptical training.
- Faster runners didn´t benefit of a return to running at 48h post-marathon.
- A return to running at low intenstiy could be advisable 48h post-marathon, although for faster runners such return should be delayed an extra 48h due to slower muscle damage recovery.
- Such return to running should be avoided if there is still much musculoskeletal pain (that could affect biomechanics) and replaced by elliptical training.
We hope that you find this information useful and wait for your comments about your experiences post-marathon.
I. Martínez-Navarro, A. Montoya-Vieco, C. Hernando, B. Hernando, N. Panizo & E. Collado (2021) The week after running a marathon: Effects of running vs elliptical training vs resting on neuromuscular performance and muscle damage recovery, European Journal of Sport Science, 21:12, 1668-1674, DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2020.1857441