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Daily Wisdom: April 26

The best ways to deload after a race without losing fitness

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In our daily news series, Matt Berenc, director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, addresses some of the latest fitness research and news stories.

Today’s Topic: How long it takes to lose fitness after a race

The Science: A study out of Massachusetts General Hospital considered the effects of “deloading” (i.e. running less) after completing the 2016 Boston Marathon. “The authors of this study looked at how the body would respond post-marathon when weekly training totals were reduced to just two hours of cardio for two months. They found that even with this significant reduction, runners could maintain their fitness and health gains (such as their VO2 Max and healthy cholesterol levels).

EQX Expert Insight: “Once the race is finished, one of the best things you can do for yourself and for your longevity in the sport is to spend some time focusing on your recovery,” says Berenc. "Many athletes know this, but don’t properly recover due to concern over losing fitness and the health benefits they gained during training." This study proves those fears are unfounded. The authors highlight one way to deload but there are other ways. For one, you can back off your intensity and run at two minutes per mile slower than your race pace. “It may feel funny to run that slowly but it will help ensure you don’t overdo it,” says Berenc. Another strategy for post-race recovery is to try something different. “Spending two months swimming, biking, or playing another sport will help keep your fitness levels up while giving your body a much-needed respite from running,” he explains.  

The Bottom Line: “As long as you aren’t spending the months following a race sitting on the couch vegging out, you’ll be able to maintain the benefits of your hard work while taking a little time off,” assures Berenc. After a marathon take at least one week completely off from running (or up to one month). Then, choose one of the deloading strategies above. “These results don’t just apply to marathons either: all endurance athletes can benefit from targeted recovery following a significant race,” adds Berenc.