I just ran my first 50 mile ultramarathon on December 5, 2015 at the North Face Endurance Challenge California. The course was awesome and took us through the incredible trails of the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco. I felt amazing the entire race and had a great time, but I know it took a toll on my body. That was the longest run I’ve ever completed by 19 miles, so I know that my body is a bit beat up right now. I decided to do some research on how best to recover from a 50 miler in order to get back into the next training cycle as soon as possible.
The more I read online, the more I found it matched a lot of the physiological principles that I already knew. Primarily, you’re body requires 14-18 days to adapt to a new stress. That means you will not see the benefit of a long run or a speed workout until 14-18 days after you have completed it. This is why most training programs build in a 2 week taper period before your target race – it allows your body to adapt to all of the work you have done before your race (like that last long run or high volume weekend).
So the best way to recover from your race is to allow your body a 2 week period to adapt to the new stress you applied to it.
Applying Adaptation to Recovery
This is my plan over the next two weeks:
- Week 1: run 2-3 times and no more than 50% of the distance of a typical training run leading up to the race (. This basically means that during the week I will be running 3-5 miles during weekdays. On the weekend, I will be doing just one run on Saturday and will shoot for about 10-12 miles. All of these runs should be completed at a VERY easy pace/effort.
- In order to not lose the routine I established leading up to the race, I will fill the other 3-4 days that I’m not running with active recovery and strength training (a focus of my next training cycle). I have already spent a lot of time on the foam roller adding a bit of length back into the muscle fibers and targeting tight trouble spots that have popped up since the race.
- Week 2: run 4-5 days still at 50% of a typical training week. Since I was running just 5 days during my last training cycle, I will shoot to hit 5 days next week while keeping the effort easy.
- The active recovery will still be very important, focusing on foam rolling and stretching, while icing any aches and pains that pop up along the way.
My first run after the race was tough. I was struggling to maintain a minute per mile slower than my usual training pace, but I know that listening to my body is the most important thing I can do right now. Ultrarunners tend to be slaves to their watches or Strava, but recovery from a hard race means you should listen to your body over your watch and make sure you’re not pushing too hard, too soon.
50 Mile Recovery Plan
What Works for You?
So this is what I am planning to do to recover from my first 50 miler. What has worked for you in the past? Comment below and let us know what you have found to be effective for recovery? Yoga? Nutrition? Hydration? More running? We want to hear it all!