Zero Week

This is Zero Week – the week after the Full Marathon, now it’s time to recover from all the damage 26.2 miles can do to your body. I didn’t follow the Hal Higdon training plan for the marathon ( I kinda just threw my plan together from a bunch of different ones and in combo with how I felt), but he has a great recovery plan.

The week after your marathon is called Zero Week and he says it’s the hardest of all the training weeks – I bet he says that because you’re in pain!

This morning I woke up sore and just walked for about 35 minutes and stretched a little. My quads, calves and my back/shoulders are sore! Isn’t random that my shoulders are sore? I thought so. After work I was feeling stiff so I walked for about 20 minutes to loosen up. Tomorrow is another rest day. This week is a very easy and restful week. It’s important to give yourself time to recover unless you want to take longer to bounce back. I’m going to take it easy tomorrow and see how I feel Wednesday.

Hal Higdon’s advice:

Sunday: Recovery begins the minute you step into the finishing chute. Keep moving and start drinking, preferably a replacement drink such as Gatorade. Research suggests that refueling works best if done immediately after exercise, when the body is eager to absorb energy. As soon as your stomach can tolerate food, start eating. Most marathons provide bananas, yogurt and other easily digested high-carbohydrate foods. These are good for you. A long walk to your car or hotel room won’t hurt you. After that, get off your feet and rest an hour or two. By then, you should be ready for more solid food. It too should be high in carbohydrates. (For a more detailed discussion on post-marathon recovery, read Chapter 18, “Mile 27” in my book: Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide.)

Monday: Assuming you followed one of my 18-week training programs, Monday was always a day of rest to help your body recuperate from weekend workouts. The same principle applies. No running today! No exercise of any kind! Take it easy.

Tuesday: No running! Today’s a good day for a massage. (Schedule one before the marathon.) Although getting a quick rubdown at the finish-line massage tent may have felt good, a massage 24 to 48 hours after the marathon works best. If you have any post-race blisters, or foot problems, have a podiatrist treat them.

 Wednesday: No running! And don’t substitute cross-training in a mistaken belief that it will help you maintain fitness. You may be able to swim or cycle more easily than run because you’ll be using somewhat different muscles, but you still need rest-rest-rest to allow all your muscles to recover. Starting to train too soon can delay that recovery. You earned this period of rest. Take it!

Thursday: Okay, you’re cleared to run again, but don’t overdo it. The Thursday workout for Novice runners the week before the marathon (Week 18 in my program) was 2 miles of gentle jogging. That sounds about right for Zero Week too. Intermediate and advanced runners might do a bit more, but see how your body feels.

Friday: Now is the time to cross-train. Swim or bike if that is your pleasure, but it’s probably not a good idea to start some new exercise you haven’t been doing the previous 18 weeks. The best cross-training discipline for a recovering marathoner is simple walking. Don’t underestimate the value of this activity. Go at most 2-3 miles.

Saturday: By now, most of the muscle soreness should be gone. You’re probably ready to resume your regular training routine, but don’t rush things. Stick with the 2- to 3-mile routine today. Or maybe take today off entirely.

Sunday: Quite often marathoners who did their long runs together in the months leading up to a marathon like to get together to rehash how they did. So call your friends and schedule a run of about an hour, 6 to 8 miles max. But don’t get competitive and push the pace too hard. Your body may feel better again, but it’s still in recovery mode.

Now that you’re through Zero Week (the toughest week involved in running the marathon), where do you go from here? Here is a 4-week recovery program to get you back up to speed. I’ve included a 5-K or 10-K race at the end of the tunnel to help you with motivation. After that, you’re free to pick your next training or racing goal.


Sounds like I should get a massage tomorrow :) I don’t think I have time for it Tuesday, but I’ll get one soon! Now, it’s time for me to hit the sack.


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