Marathon Recovery Tips from New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery

Sports medicine experts offer ways to speed post-marathon recovery

NEW YORK, N.Y.—November 2, 2007 

More than 30,000 runners have spent the past several months training for the ING New York City Marathon. Once they have completed the race and achieved their goals, there are measures they can take to facilitate recovery, decrease post-race discomfort, and return to running without injury.

Eating immediately after the marathon, icing sore muscles, and having a gentle massage are only a few of the tips that Rob Maschi, PT, DPT, CSCS, Ph.D., five-time marathon veteran and physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Sports Medicine Performance and Research Center in New York, offers runners who cross the finish line.

“Marathon runners need to pay close attention to their recovery so they don’t injure themselves,” says Maschi.  “If runners take proper care of their bodies after the marathon, they will feel better, faster.”

The following are marathon recovery tips from Maschi on ways to bounce back from a marathon:

  1. Eat and drink something within 30 minutes of finishing the marathon and take in healthy carbohydrates and proteins to replenish used energy stores.  Over the next 2–3 days, eat often to aid recovery and avoid junk food;

  2. Ice sore muscles and aching joints, 15–20 minutes per session, for as long as pain and swelling persists.  Try cooling sore muscles in a cold water pool or an ice bath, and avoid sitting in a “hot tub” or warm bath until the pain and swelling has gone away, since the heat will increase inflammation and will be counter-productive to recovery;

  3. Take a short walk on marathon night followed by gentle stretching that focuses on the leg muscles;

  4. The day after the marathon, it is important to warm up muscles enough to safely stretch them.  The warm up can be an easy bike ride, swim or light jog that is no longer than 5 miles, all performed at a conversational pace;

  5. Arrange for a gentle, post-event massage from a massage therapist familiar with a marathoner’s needs.  A massage two hours after finishing the race will help to flush out the metabolic waste products of exercise that build up in muscles during the marathon.  Avoid deep tissue, shiatsu, and Swedish massages which further inflame already sore muscles.  Some runners prefer to wait 2-3 days until they are less sore to have a massage;

  6. Focus on recovery the week after the marathon and run no more than 25 percent of average, pre-marathon miles during this week;

  7. Run on grass, gravel or dirt trails to minimize impact on already sore muscles and joints;

  8. During the month following the marathon, ramp up mileage gradually and avoid long runs and speed work during the early recovery phase;

  9. Create post-marathon race goals, whether it is a 5K or the next marathon, in order to stay motivated to continue running after the big day.

“Feeling sore after a marathon is normal; but pain and swelling are the body’s ways of indicating that something is wrong,” says Brian Halpern, M.D., sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery and author of Men’s Health Best Sports Medicine Handbook.  “The best way to handle almost every sports injury is the RICE method, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.”

About Hospital for Special Surgery
Founded in 1863, Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) is a world leader in orthopedics, rheumatology and rehabilitation. HSS is nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics, No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2007), and has received Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. In the 2006 edition of HealthGrades' Hospital Quality in America Study, HSS received five-star ratings for clinical excellence in its specialties. A member of the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System and an affiliate of Weill Medical College of Cornell University, HSS provides orthopedic and rheumatologic patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center. All Hospital for Special Surgery medical staff are on the faculty of Weill Medical College of Cornell University. The hospital's research division is internationally recognized as a leader in the investigation of musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases. Hospital for Special Surgery is located in New York City and online at www.hss.edu.

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