So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Take A Few Days And Call Me In The Morning

I wrote last week about a case of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), what I jokingly referred to as "God's Way Of Saying You Should Have Kept Walking," at least in my case. For a solid week I was mystified, mortified, stupified - and in the case of my quadriceps muscles - petrified and nearly-ossified. There's nothing like the frightening feeling of having those big leg muscles fire off, leaving your legs to wobble in unexpected ways, especially when you're walking down the halls of your office building on a Thursday afternoon. It could have been sympathy pains for all of those marathoners I watched a couple of weeks ago, but I'm not certain.

When it comes to physical activity after a race, I've tried to follow a few rules of thumb which I picked up over time with my athletes:

1. A day of light activity (translate this as "no running") or rest for every hour of racing. I've traditionally taken a day off, or run very gently, the day after racing a 5K or 10K, and recommended the same to my own athletes.

2. A day of easy running for every mile raced. An athlete running a 5K or 10K would be constrained from hard interval workouts or tempo running for three-to-six days. In our case here, track workouts usually have been two or more days out from a race, or easy in intensity.

Marathons and half-marathons usually do a different kind of damage to the average (citizen) athlete; there's a lot of eccentric muscle activity over an extended period of time. Many coaches and training plans recommend easy running in the days following to keep the large leg muscles from becoming too damaged. The problem is that those easy runs, especially in the first week, do little but delay the recovery process, as defined by decreased muscle volume contraction, decreased running efficiency and increase in blood chemical markers related to muscle damage. Groups of runners who rested in the days following a marathon performance were found to have greater muscle strength and decreased soreness.

So, if there's that compulsion to get out and do something in the days after a long race, let it be something at the perceived intensity level of four on a one-to-ten scale...or less. Odds are good that's going to be a walk, but that's okay. You'll be back to running - and excited - in about five or six days.

God's way of saying "Take two and call Me in the morning..." It certainly beats hobbling.

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