By Micah Morgan, CRNP and Ultra-Marathon Runner
You have just completed a 5K, a 10K, a half-marathon, or a marathon – a huge accomplishment, no matter how you slice it. You have likely just pushed your body to new levels in training and on race day. Now, the body needs to be in recovery mode. Here are a few tips for an effective race recovery to allow the bones and soft tissues to heal from microtrauma and for you to be ready for your next run.
First up: Cool down
Immediately after finishing your race, your body needs a somewhat gradual return to homeostasis. Take a moment to allow your breathing and heart rate to settle. This can be evidenced by your ability to talk in complete sentences without gasping for air. Then, grab a buddy and jog at a slow pace for around eight to 10 minutes. This will help decrease soreness from the intense work you’ve just asked of your body.
Rehydrate and refuel
Once you finish the race, you will want to take at least eight ounces of water or electrolyte drink. This replenishment of fluid should continue for several hours after your race, especially for longer distances and/or hot and humid conditions. The amount you want to replace will depend on the temperature, humidity, and sweat rate of individual athletes. Races lasting longer than 90 minutes also begin to deplete carbohydrate stores. Research has shown that refueling within an hour of your effort, with a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, provides the most complete recovery.
There are many options for modalities to assist in the recovery phase. These range from light stretching, foam rolling, massage guns, or pneumatic compression devices to the more traditional cold or heat therapy. Modern research discourages cryotherapy or ice baths for recovery, stating that the anti-inflammatory component actually prolongs healing from microtrauma.
Soreness is to be expected
Some amount of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is to be expected, especially 24-72hrs after your race. This can leave runners with difficulty transitioning sit to/from stand, or ascending/descending stairs. Going for short walks can help reduce this soreness.
Allow body ample time for rest. This will vary from runner to runner. Newer runners or runners completing longer races may need to avoid running for a week or more. More experienced runners may only require a single day to recover. A good rule of thumb is to avoid running if your normal gait is compromised or if you are having pain at rest. When you do return to running, practice the “reverse taper” method, slowly ramping up your distances over a week or two. Sleep is also critical for complete recovery of all your body’s systems, including not only the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems, but particularly the endocrine system as well.
At Southlake Orthopaedics we have dedicated providers who are committed to the sport of marathon racing and we are here to answer any questions. Reach out to our team of experienced professionals at Southlake Orthopaedics.
Micah Morgan, CRNP practices with Southlake Orthopaedics Sports Medicine & Spine Center. www.southlakeorthopaedics.com