Whew, the past few months, weeks, and days of training and hard work has finally paid off. You've hit your physical fitness goals or running PR (Personal Record), at the event you've worked so hard for, congrats!!
But, wait, in the days following the race, you've noticed some muscle soreness?! This is totally normal, and I wanted to provide some tips to help reduce and alleviate soreness from running or any other vigorous physical activity.
1. Hydrating - After you've been out running hard or a tough workout it is recommended you start hydrating within 10-15 minutes of stopping. As Bobbi Busche would say, "That's some high quality H2O," but some electrolytes will help aid in recovery as well - Gatorade or a similar sports drink are my favorites.
2. Eating - Once you have hydrated you can begin your stretching and to feed the machine! We'll go into stretching next, for your post race snack pick something lighter with carbohydrates and protein - think yogurt and granola, apple and peanut butter, bagel with orange juice, yumm.
3. Stretching - While proper stretching is a hot topic, I personally have found it beneficial to do some light stretching prior to the workout followed by stretching the major muscle groups 25-30 minutes after your workout - quads, hamstrings, calves, hips and glutes.
4. The Ice Bath - I have to admit, it is always hard for me to climb into a tub of chilly water, but you'll thank me once you get used to it! Fill your tub with cool water and add ice until the temperature reaches 55 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The ice should be completely melted (ice cubes should melt in about 3-5minutes). Grab your favorite magazine, a towel and submerge your lower part of your body to your hips for runners. The trick here is to survive the first 3-minutes, after that your body will adjust to the temperature and if you're feeling like continuing the torture you can flutter you legs a bit to keep the water circulating in the tub. Remain in the tub for 10-15 minutes, trust me, the more you ice bathe the easier it gets. Once the tub drains, reward yourself with a hot shower - your legs will be cold for a bit, but your muscles will be thankful.
5. Eat Again - it is now 1 or 2 hours after your run and you've had some water, Gatorade and your favorite snack. To completely refuel your muscles and aid in recovery you'll need to have something more substantial. If it's breakfast, eggs with toast and avocado is always good. If it's an afternoon or evening race try a salad, healthy sandwich, pasta, or even last nights leftovers from the fridge - you just want to consume a quality meal with a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
6. Get Sleep - After your meal, throw your legs up and take a nap or head to bed early, your body heals itself when there is no stress or exertion being placed on it - after a hard race I always give myself 7-8 hours of quality sleep afterwards, your needs may vary a bit, but listen to your body.
7. Get Back Out There - If you're tired of starting over, stop quitting! Words of wisdom from experience. While soreness is part of exercise, it does get better! Once your body becomes accustomed to running or any other physical activity you'll notice the soreness less and less. Frequent exercise pushes the lactic acid out of your muscles and allows your body to work through the swelling. Please be sure to listen to your body - if you need more time off take it, full muscle recovery can take up to 5 days.
There you have it... While the road to recovery can be a bit daunting, I can guarantee that if you follow these steps it will reduce your recovery time and you will be back out there reaching your next fitness goal!