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Posts Tagged ‘active recovery’

14 Days after Boston:

With the Boston Marathon two full weeks behind me, my legs still feel like they’re still recovering.  I’ve been running 4-7 miles a day for the last week but have yet to feel the “spring” back in my legs.

Within 5 minutes of crossing the finish line at Boston, my quads and calves started tightening up and walking became very uncomfortable.  I must have looked pretty bad because I attracted the attention of several medical people who came up to me asking me if I was ok.  I could tell by the way they were looking at me that they didn’t care what I said, they were making their assessment based on how I responded.  If a person says they feel fine but are unable to fix their gaze on you, they’re not fine.  I might have been doing that because these people were pretty relentless.  I finally said to one of them that I could use some ice and they happily escorted me to the medical tent.  Given my pre-race history of calf and Achilles issues I knew I immediately needed to be proactive about recovery.  I wanted to get some ice on my calves and Achilles ASAP.  I sat down (finally!) and kept moving the ice bag around to various locations on my calves and Achilles, leaving the ice in one spot for no more than 15 minutes.

The next couple of days, as expected, are the worst for post marathon pain.  This is when the inflammation from the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the greatest.  But it’s also a very important first step for the healing process.  Family and friends were incredibly entertained by watching me take a full minute to stand up or walk across a room.  And stairs!  To me, I felt like I should have had help from the fire department getting up and down the stairs.  It was suggested that tickets be sold to watch me negotiate stairs…the “down stairs without a railing show” would undoubtedly get the highest price.

rocky surf

retreating from the rocky surf

Since I had good results from the ice bath in the past I wanted to do that again, but this time include my quads.  One of the amenities of New England this time of year is very cold lakes and ponds.  I found a small lake and waded up to the top of my quads for 15 minutes.  A couple of concerned passers-by stopped to question whether I was doing this under my own free will and/or would I eventually need a flotation device.  Their concern quickly diminished once I told them I had just run the Boston Marathon.  While it was uncomfortable at the time, my legs felt much better afterward.  Since I was on Cape Cod I figured I should attempt wading into the ocean.  However the surf, adding insult to injury, was tossing many sizable rocks against my feet so I quickly abandoned that idea.

An active recovery is probably the best plan following a marathon.  But first, take the day after the marathon off, you deserve it.  Two days after the marathon, walking from 10-30 minutes, depending on how your legs feel, is a good way to begin the active recovery process.  Other options are light massage, easy cycling or swimming.  These activities increase blood flow to the muscles and facilitate the healing process.  I suggest people increase time spent walking over the following few days, but as far as returning to running: wait until you feel like you could go for an easy run and then wait another 2-3 days before you actually do go running.  Case in point:  My legs were feeling pretty good by the following Saturday (5 days after the race).  I was playing with some dogs and tried to run across a grassy area with them.  Within 15 feet, my quads cramped up and it ended up setting my recovery back a couple of days.

calf foam roller

self calf massage with foam roller

I decided to go for my first post-Boston run 8 days after the race.  It was moderately uncomfortable and my quads were flirting with the cramping sensation again.  After another day of stretching and using the foam roller on my calves, the next run was much more tolerable.  Each successive run has been a little better, and the recovery from each run, shorter.

Up next:  In 4 weeks, the Champlain Valley of Vermont will be in full bloom and runners in the Key Bank Vermont City Marathon will be filling the streets of downtown Burlington.  My plan is to run the 2 person marathon relay with my friend Eli Enman (Kasie’s husband.)  Our team, cleverly named “On Track to Sleepy Hollow,” won the 2 person relay last year and we’ll attempt to defend our title for VCM 2011.

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