Not only are the temperatures dropping and the trees changing color, but for many people, this is also the long anticipated marathon season. Few are gunning to set new personal records, more are dreading race day and just wanting to cross the finish line, and still others are mummified in KT tape simply hoping to survive the 26.2 miles. Wherever you are in the pack, in a few weeks, you will have survived to tell the tale, registered for your next marathon, and you will need to begin piecing yourself back together so that you can hit your next marathon stronger, faster, and with fewer battle wounds.
Whether you have just started running or have logged in more miles than you can count, you have more than likely already experienced a number of injuries particularly common to runners. Several of the most common injuries include:
Runner’s Knee (Illiotibial Band Syndrome)
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears
Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome)
Though more common to runners, walkers aren’t immune. The reason these injuries are at the top of the list for runners and walkers is because running and walking is a repetitive impact activity primarily stressing the foot, knee, and lumbo-pelvic-hip structures with their subsequent musculature. When those structures are not in alignment whether due to muscle strength imbalances or structural differences, possible injury can result. Additionally, all of those structures are connected such that an imbalance in the foot structure has the potential to affect the knees, hips and back. Likewise, issues at the lumbo-pelvic-hip region can affect the knees and feet. So during this off-season, it will be important to pay attention to the muscles that have been neglected during marathon training – muscles that may already be causing injury or that are weak and are simply performing at a sub-par level.
Before beginning a rehab program, this month will focus on several general recovery tips to get you back up on your feet after the big event.
Depending on how well (or not well) you survived your marathon, apply the R.I.C.E. plan within the first week following your event. This will help to reduce pain and swelling. If necessary, see a sports injury medical professional who can advise on treatment and rehab.
R (Rest) –
Allow your body time to recover. If it hurts, don’t keep pushing through it. If you feel the need to get moving, sub out running for another activity like yoga, cycling, swimming, or pilates.
I (Ice) –
Ice baths or ice packs – take your pick.
C (Compression) –
Compression socks post-race may help to increase blood flow and speed up recovery.
E (Elevation) –
After running 26.2 miles, you’ve earned the right to put your feet up for a bit – literally.
2. Run Light
After the post-marathon aches and pains have subsided, go easy on yourself and ease-up on the running. Opt for other activities that you haven’t had time for during your marathon season whether it is hitting the gym, swimming, yoga, Pilates, Crossfit, or rock climbing. Not only will this help to create a more balanced strength and fitness level but varying up your activities will also help to refresh you psychologically.
3. Stay Healthy
Research has shown that intense endurance exercise of more than 2 hrs has the potential to decrease immunity and make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 3 days after the exercise session. With that said, take care of yourself, hydrate well, eat healthily, and rest up to avoid getting sick after the marathon.
4. Think Positive
You have spent months preparing for your event, taken your body through miles of asphalt pounding, experienced the thrill of finishing and getting your medal to prove it and now what? Many people experience post-race blues, which is a combination of reduced endorphins with the decrease in physical activity and the return to normalcy after the emotional high of the event. Combat the blues by being prepared. Think ahead to your next event. Hang out with friends and family. Go for a massage. Participate in a holiday fun run like a Turkey Trot or a Jingle Bell run! Give yourself time to adjust and don’t be too hard on yourself.
5. Rehab Intelligently
Depending on how you’re feeling, if necessary, seek medical help. If the pain persists, don’t ignore it. Spend the off-season targeting muscles that may have been neglected during marathon season.
Stay tuned for PART TWO next month. We will focus on a plan to rehab and target various muscles to increase overall fitness, prevent and reduce injury, and hopefully result in a stronger training season for your next event.
Good luck to upcoming finishers!
Congrats to all you who have finished!