The Importance of Race Recovery


Healthy Living – June 27, 2017
JP Stowe, ATC, CSCS – Eastern Maine Medical Center
Spartan races, Inflatable 5k’s, Color Runs, and Marathons are all a part of a busy spring and summer here in Maine. These types of races and activities feature a broad spectrum of participants that range from some truly amazing athletes to the typical weekend warrior just starting a workout or running regiment. No matter the experience level, they all have at least one thing in common; they need to recover properly. Some of these events are absolutely grueling to finish and the week after can make your body feel like you were hit by a truck and may even leave you couch bound. Instead of lying around, the best way to recover is what we call an active recovery.

Why am I sore?

I think we’d all agree that these types of races aren’t easy. Reflecting back on your race, you may focus on the obstacles themselves but there are plenty of elements during an obstacle race or long race which factor into why you’re walking like 70 year old on broken glass the next morning!
  • Soft tissue inflammation – from prolonged stress on tendons, muscles, ligaments and fascia.
  • Scrapes, scratches and bruises – from climbing, crawling and falling.
  • Increased joint stress – arches, ankles, knees, hips, low back, necks, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers are all stressed with step on ever-changing surfaces.
  • Lactic acid – your body’s “exhaust” or waste product produced during intense muscle activity.
Tips to Accelerate your Race Recovery

Joint Motion – Almost all 360 joints in your body are used in an obstacle course race. Many of those joints were stretched and twisted in a very different manner than how they move during your 9-5 job. During your recovery, simple and slow stretches and movements from your neck to your big toe will enhance vital inner-joint lubrication and help restore normal joint motion.

Hydrate and Eat Healthy– Drinking lots of water with healthy foods will help your body flush out the “bad stuff” while replacing the “good stuff” such as inner muscle fluids, healthy calories, sodium (salt) and important electrolytes.

Drain your Legs – Elevate your legs straight up in the air for 5-10 minutes while pumping your ankles and toes 3x/day.  Gravity was not your friend in the race but now it’s time to take advantage of gravity to help your lymphatic system to drain “the bad stuff” from your loyal legs.

Just Run – “What?!”  Trust me on this one….running the next day after a race is a key part of your recovery. It only needs to be an easy one mile trot on the soccer field, or 10 minutes of light side-shuffles and agility drills in the back yard. Your legs will thank you two days from now.

Massage and Stretch – Get your feet, legs, hips, and low back massaged and stretched as soon as possible to minimize the amount of waste products from embedding in the membranes of your muscles.
Ice and Compression are Your Best Friends – Sure, ice hurts but ice a valuable tool for serious athletes training and racing hard. If you have localized pain or swelling in a muscle or joint, ice the area for 15-20 minutes, a few times per day. Ongoing joint or muscle pain should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.

Wound Care – Like friendly reminders, the flesh wounds are there. They range from simple scrapes to the deep cuts to the bloody blisters to “where-did-that-come-from?” battle marks. Take care of open wounds quickly to avoid complications by cleaning the open wounds thoroughly with soap and water, applying an antibiotic ointment and, if needed, covering them with a sterile dressing.

Doing a better job with your race recovery will get you back to what you want to do: Living a healthy and active lifestyle. Challenges await you and having a plan of attack for the aches and pains that come with those challenges will surely make you stronger.