Marathon Recovery + Descending Ladder

Truth: I am not the best with marathon recovery. Maybe because it’s usually the end of a training cycle so the need to recover well to get back into training is low…meaning: recovery is not the most important thing. I tend to stay pretty sedentary, drink too little water and do zero stretching/rolling. This time was different. I have upcoming racing plans (lots to share about the rest of 2014 – won’t share right now since it kind of lends itself to a full post) so there was/is a need to recover and recover WELL. I am by no means saying that I am an expert in marathon recovery. But I think what I did have worked for me. I am 11 days post marathon and my legs feel fresh, my energy is high and my desire to train hard is stronger than it’s been in months. All good things. Especially given how beat up my quads felt after the marathon (which I think was from all the downhill running). Here’s what I did: Sunday (race day):

  • Vega Recovery: After a quick walk through of the Asics post-race tent, I got my checked bag, grabbed my Vega Recovery drink mix and downed it with 16 oz of water. I started using the recovery accelerator during my fall marathon training cycle and loved it and have continued to use it after almost every run. I feel like it works. From the Vega website:

The first all-natural, plant-based recovery drink mix specifically developed to address all six key elements of post-workout recovery: muscle glycogen replenishment, muscle tissue repair and protein synthesis, hormonal support, soft-tissue repair, immune system support, inflammation reduction and rehydration.

  • Ice Bath within an hour of crossing the finish linela marathon10
  • After a few hours of eating at the finish party and relaxing in my room, I went for a short walk with Kristin and Brian – mostly to get our legs moving (and for a celebratory Starbucks Java Chip Frappacino)
  • Focused most of day on hydrating – lots of water with some Nuun.
  • I stretched for about 10 minutes before I went to bed.


  • Early morning walk watching sun come upla marathon20
  • 60 min sports massage (this was heaven…painful, but still heaven)la marathon21
  • Lots of water (especially on flight)


  • 1-3 walks/day (20-30 min each)la marathon22
  • Foam rolling / Stretching
  • Increased Water


  • Same as Tuesday/Wednesday
  • 30-45 min on trainer – easy pedaling

My legs felt sore on Monday, but worse on Tuesday. I woke up Thursday and felt great. I felt like I could run…and wanted to run, but knew I should give myself another couple of days. I want to return to running and be ready to train, not just log slow, achy miles. My first run was Saturday morning – 7 miles outside with no garmin or music. I didn’t want to be worried about my pace, so just ran a route that I know well.

staten island

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were all 8 mile runs – nothing fast or hilly – just easy running to get back into the routine of running longer miles on a regular basis (Sunday and Monday I picked up pace a bit at the end). Wednesday was my first speed day post marathon and first time in about 2 1/2 weeks (b/c of taper). I knew it was going to be a treadmill run because my husband has been in Texas all week for work. I didn’t want to do anything so concrete or pace specific – I don’t think I’m ready to do a 5-8 mile tempo yet.  So I decided to do one of my favorite workouts – a descending ladder – it’s still speedwork but there is quite a bit of recovery time in the workout and it’s easy to alter the paces (I ran about 10-15 seconds slower than my actual goal paces)


It’s a fun, tough workout. Some of the highlights:

  • Ends up being 30 minutes of comfortably hard to hard running
  • You get a good mix of speeds to run – I started with 10 min at a 7:08 pace and worked down to 1 min at a 6 min pace
  • Easy to track progress – you can increase your pace on each set as well as increase your recovery pace
  • Can be tailored for shorter/longer mileage:
    • Increase or decrease your warmup/cooldown – I did a total of 10 miles with 4 miles as warmup/cooldown
    • I added in a 3 and 1 min set to get a little more shorter-distance speed in
    • Shorter Workout: Start at 8 min OR alter it to be 5-4-3-2-1
    • Lengthen Workout: Start at 12 or 14 min OR alter it to be 10-9-8-etc
Workout called for a smiling selfie - especially since I didn't have to get off the treadmill ONCE with the boys playing around me!

Workout called for a smiling selfie – especially since I didn’t have to get off the treadmill ONCE with the boys playing around me!

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you want each set to be faster than the previous one – so be realistic about your current ability so you don’t start too fast (you can always speed up as you go along if you are feeling good!).

Have you ever done a ladder workout?


I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

For More NYC Running Mama training updates, pictures and ramblings, check out:

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    16 thoughts on “Marathon Recovery + Descending Ladder

    1. Pingback: NJ Marathon – Take 2

    2. Hi,

      Do you have a certain foam roller brand that you prefer for prepping for/recovering from a marathon?


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    4. Pingback: Training Update + LA Marathon Race Review

    5. Interesting to learn about your post marathon recovery compared to mine. You are so much more organized and know what to do! I was a little clueless other than taking 10 days off completely. Glad you are recovering well, and hoping we can meet at a race someday :)

      I actually did a ladder workout this week, it was my primary focus of the week :) Only 3 repeats, but I averaged 5:45 so was happy :)
      Tina Muir recently posted..Training Update 3/9-3/20My Profile

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    7. Sounds like a perfect recovery! My quads are currently not the happiest with me and I think it is from the down hills in my 5k…I know it wasn’t a long race but I think the hills did not agree with my quads :). That ladder looks tough for sure! I will totally try it! I have a half in 3 1/2 weeks that I am excited for!
      Jen@milesandblessings recently posted..Big News Day!!!!My Profile

    8. I just posted today about how badly I handed my post race recovery on Sunday. It was my third marathon, I qualified for Boston with almost 7 minutes to spare and the euphoria took my brain away! Not making the best choices is problematic in terms of length of recovery, but I am feeling good today and have really taken it easy. The foam roller and stretching has also helped alot!
      PS Just saw the photo of your Yorkie….we have one too named Lulu!
      pam recently posted..What not to do after a marathon!My Profile

    9. Great job on the recovery and the workouts. I love descending sets–works to my natural strength as a negative splitter. So now I am curious about your spring and remainder of the year goals!
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