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September 20, 2018

Recovery After Your Race Day

It is important to start your post-race recovery routine immediately after you cross the finish line and then continue over the next few days.

Cooper Witt, DPT, is a Physical Therapist at ThedaCare.

September 20th, 2018

Tips for Post-Race Routines

It is important to start your post-race recovery routine immediately after you cross the finish line and then continue over the next few days.

Below are tips for runners to properly recover from a half or full marathon.

  • Keep walking after you finish the race. During the race, blood flow gets redirected to your working muscles for running and away from your internal organs. You are going to be exhausted, but it’s important to continue walking after you finish your race for at least 20 minutes in order to bring your heart rate down slowly and allow your body to re-distribute your blood supply equally. Otherwise, you may feel nauseous (not enough blood flow to the stomach) or dizzy and light-headed (not enough blood flow to the brain).
  • HYDRATE! (properly). Begin to consume fluids as soon as possible after you cross the finish line. Start with small sips as frequently as your body can tolerate without causing you to feel nauseous. It is important to avoid big gulps and fast drinking immediately post-race to help your body bring itself back down from its elevated state. Sports drinks with electrolytes and some sodium are great for replacing the fluid and salt your body loses during the race; water is always a great option. Keep track of urination color and frequency over the next few hours and days after your race in order to monitor your hydration status.
  • EAT! (slowly). Much like hydrating, it is important to also eat after your race slowly and in limited amounts until your stomach is ready for full digestion. To make it easier on your stomach, stick with easily-digestible food sources with higher amount of carbohydrates, sodium, and potassium. Some good examples include bananas, bagels and energy bars. Your body is most in need of nutrients for the first few hours after your race so it is important not to avoid eating even though it may be difficult.
  • Take a cool shower. Hot showers can actually dehydrate you further and raise your body temperature. Stick with cool water in order to help decrease your core body temperature slowly without shocking your body with freezing cold water. Avoid the hot tub because the high heat will raise your body temperature and can actually increase levels of inflammation in your joints and muscles.
  • Avoid pain relievers. As strange as this may seem taking aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen immediately after your race can actually do more harm than good. These drugs are processed by your liver and kidneys which require fluid to work at their best. The drugs can be damaging to your organs if taken while you are still dehydrated after your race or even immediately prior to your race as you will be dehydrating yourself during the race. Be sure you are fully hydrated again before taking any pain relievers.
  • Stretch, ice and wear compression. Ice can be very helpful for sore joints and muscles if utilized for 20 minutes three to four times per day for the first two days after your race. It is also a good idea to wear compression tights and/or stockings to help limit any inflammation or swelling in your legs. These can be worn for any period of time but wearing them at night while you sleep for the first two to three nights after your race will give you the most benefit. Gentle stretching for the calves, quads, hamstrings, IT bands, glutes and low back can begin right away. You can then increase the intensity of your stretching over the next few days after the race as you recover further.
  • Take good care of your skin. Check your skin immediately after your race in order to limit damage and prevent infection. For scrapes, chafes and open blisters, wash twice daily with soap and water before applying antibiotic ointment and covering with a bandage for the first few days. For larger blisters that have not been broken, apply cold packs and consider carefully draining them. If you choose to drain them, first wash your skin with soap and water, then wipe with alcohol, let the alcohol dry, and then pop them with a sterile needle near the edge of the blister. Take care of the popped blister as noted above and watch carefully for any sign of infection. If you see redness or pus develop, seek medical attention.
  • About ThedaCare
    For more than 100 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose, as well as 31 clinics in nine counties and the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.