Post-Race Recovery

race-day-720x288Got summer races on your calendar? Follow these post-race recovery tips:

Don’t stretch after a race. Static stretching can actually do more harm than good by damaging your muscles.

Stay away from massages right after the race to avoid making your inflammation worse. This is contrary to what I’ve always been told–you want a massage to cleanse your body from lactic acid, but it’s best to wait for that nice massage for a couple of days.

Muscles repair typically at night, making protein the perfect food to eat before bed. Try eating a handful of nuts, a protein shake or even some tuna the night after a race.

Keep walking after you finish. While all you want to do is sit down after running for hours and hours, it’s best to keep moving your muscles or all the blood can pool in the legs.

Sleep. I didn’t consider this. I know 48 hours before the race is the best time to get a good night’s sleep to help you through the race, but sleeping after the race also benefits in helping your body recover. Try taking a nap as soon as possible and sleeping a couple of extra hours a night. You’ll relax the body and let it repair the muscles quicker.

Eat. This shouldn’t be too hard–you burned the calories and now you should replace them. Eat a meal with a mix of carbs, protein and vegetables for dinner the same night as the day of the race. You’ll need to feed your muscles so they can properly heal. While you want that burger with fries because you feel you earned it (which you did), try waiting just a couple of days to celebrate with bad calories. Your body is in a fragile state post race and you need to take care of it.

Happy race day!

Hydration for Runners

Marathon Hamburg 2006Runners all face dehydration issues. We sweat it out for long periods of time and it is often difficult to quickly replace lost water and sodium. You can do a few tests to determine if you are dehydrated:

Urinate. The darker the pee, the more you need to drink. Your urine should be either clear or a light yellow. It can change, however, if you are taking supplements. Start watching your pee color within hours of taking vitamins and you can know what is normal.

Use your skin. Test your hydration by pinching your skin on the back of your hand and holding it for a few seconds. If the skin stays up, you are dehydrated.

Look at your fingers. You know that pruned skin you get when you take a long shower or bath, that can also happen when you are dehydrated. Your skin won’t look as plump.

Check your breath. If you have bad breath and this is not normal, you may be dehydrated. Your saliva starts changing because it is thirsty, causing bad breath.

Sitting in front of a fan. If the temperature is more than 95 degrees, you are better off finding somewhere where there is central air conditioning. Don’t just sit outside and blow a fan on your face. This is because when the air is that hot, it’ll mix with the fan and just blow hot air at you. This will make you hotter and not help with allowing your body to cool down and rehydrate itself quickly.

What to do in the summer when the weather is hotter:

-Avoid caffeine, which acts as diuretic
-Avoid sugary drinks like lemonade and Kool-Aid
-Avoid hot beverages that will make your body temperature rise
-Avoid alcohol, which dehydrates you
-Drink two liters of water a day. This is hard, but if you keep a water bottle with you at all times, it’ll be an in-your-face reminder to keep drinking.

Sugar and Runners

copy-cropped-cross-country_1.jpgWe’ve all seen the commercials touting high fructose corn syrup as bad for your health. But there’s even more sugars to be aware of when you’re shopping at the grocery store.

Research has shown that sugar doesn’t act much differently than other carbohydrates for blood glucose control. Many runners try to avoid sweets, but they still consume sugar more than they think. On average, we eat 22 teaspoons of sugar every day, roughly 350 calories per day.

Try spending time looking at labels for ingredients such as the following:

Evaporated can juice
Cane sugar
High-fructose corn syrup
White sugar
Granulated sugar
Brown sugar
Invert sugar
Maple syrup

For runners, think about switching some of these out every so often. It’s very challenging to do it all of the time, but a few changes really adds up:

Sports drinks. These are very beneficial for electrolytes and sodium, especially after a long run. They can replenish what’s lost due to sweat. However, for shorter runs, try just using water only.

Protein shakes. Many store bought protein shakes come with loads of sugar. Try blending your own using fresh fruit or substitute the shake with peanut butter or eggs. They go down easy on a stomach that’s been jumbled by running.

Cereal. Even the boxed cereals touting health and high protein can come laden with sugar. Be sure the read the label. Try substituting breakfast with steel cut oatmeal and fresh berries to add taste and texture.

Yogurt. This is great to eat after a run–you get protein and it’s easily digestible. Just read the labels for anything labeled from the above list.

English muffins. If you are craving carbs, which runners often are, try eating whole wheat toast instead. You can even add on peanut butter for the protein, but try to avoid jams loaded with sugar.


Runner’s Injuries

ankle sprain, painWe’ve all experienced some type of runner’s injury throughout our running lives. Whether it’s something small like lactic acid that disappears after a few days or something major requiring surgery, we all suffer for our sport. Here are a few running injuries and what you can do to prevent them:

Runner’s knee:
This is aching around the knee cap usually from overuse. Any sport that requires bending or jumping is subject to experiencing runner’s knee.

How to keep this from happening: Strengthen your hip muscles and work on balance exercises. Hit the gym to do some hip flexor strength movements and try adding in yoga to your workout routine. Yoga provides some helpful balance exercises while using your own body as weight.

Shin splints:
This occurs when you have pain in the front or inside of the lower leg. It often occurs when you run too much or for long periods of time. It can be quite painful.

How to keep this from happening: Incorporate stretching after every run. You should take 5-10 minutes to stretch and hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Research shows that anything over 30 seconds isn’t necessary, but anything under and you don’t get a full good stretch. You can also take an anti-inflammatory pill if you find yourself in too much pain after a run.

Stress fracture:
This occurs when you have a small crack in a bone that causes pain and discomfort. In runners you usually find it happening in the feet because that’s what hits the ground.

How to keep this from happening: When you can, run on softer terrain, such as a track or on soft trails. If you do have a stress fracture, you must stay off your feet until you heal.

This happens usually from overuse.

How to keep it from happening: Wear socks to keep your feet from rubbing too much on your insoles. Also, break in your shoes slowly. Don’t go out for a 20-mile run when you just bought a new pair. And make sure you have the proper sized shoes always.