Running: 5 tips for recovering from that post-race burn

Tips to recover from the post-race burn

You’ve just finished a 10km race or a half marathon, and your whole body is feeling the burn right after crossing the finish line. How do to ensure that your body recovers adequately from the experience? Dr Lim Mui Hong, an orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital shares five observations on what to do right after a big race.

1. What should you do right after finishing a race?

At the end of a race, the participant should enjoy the moment and move away from the congested finishing point. The runner should pay attention to rehydration, nutrition and recovery after a run.

Adequate hydration can be monitored by use of the body weight, monitoring of the urine colour and volume. As water losses increase to 3 per cent to 4 per cent of body weight, athletic performance is affected and urinary output is reduced. With dehydration, the urine volume becomes lower, more concentrated and appears darker.

2. Is it better to drink isotonic drinks or just water right after a race?

Isotonic drinks are usually flavoured and more tasty. This will stimulate thirst and increase the amount of fluid consumption. In addition, the sodium content will also increase thirst and reduce fluid excretion. This will facilitate adequate hydration.

Cool water may be consumed at any time.

3. What are some common things people do right after they finish a run that they shouldn’t be doing?

Consumption of large amount of alcohol and bingeing on food are not recommended after a run. Alcohol consumption results in increased water loss through the kidneys and result in dehydration. Consumption of a large amount of food results in a net gain of calories after the activity and it also increases the physiological load on the digestive system.

4. What do you recommend runners to do in the hours and days post-run to ensure the best recovery?

Adequate hydration and post-run nutrition are essential parts of the recovery process. Other popular recovery measures include post-exercise massage and cold water immersion (CWI).

Post-exercise massage is a common and popular way that some athletes improve their recovery. While there is limited evidence to support how effective this is, it can be employed under certain circumstances. It appears more effective for untrained participants rather than elite and competitive athletes.

CWI is a popular strategy for post-exercise recovery. It has been reported that CWI reduces the development of delayed onset muscle soreness. However, there is limited evidence on the most effective water temperature or treatment duration. The observed trend is that longer immersions (of at least 10 minutes) in colder water are associated with less muscle soreness.

5. How do you identify potential injuries that occur after a run and what should you do? How do you tell the difference between injury and just regular cramps or muscle aches?

Singapore’s hot and humid climate increases the risk of heat injuries. The symptoms include dizziness, confusion and loss of consciousness. Heat injury is potentially life threatening. Adequate rest, conditioning and hydration will minimise the risk of heat injury.

Musculoskeletal injuries may occur due to a new injury sustained during the event or aggravation of an old injury. New injuries may be caused by falls or twisting of the lower limbs. Common injuries include acute back pain, ankle sprains and knee sprains. The aggravation of old injuries is related to overuse and degenerative conditions. Common injuries include back pain, hip pain, knee pain, shin splints and ankle pain.

Musculoskeletal injuries will present as skin redness, increased warmth, pain and swelling. In addition, the affected joint will have limited range of movement and may have other symptoms like locking or giving way.

Persistent symptoms of pain, swelling and limited joint movement are indicators of an underlying injury. A medical consultation is recommended for further evaluation.