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Race Recovery: You Crossed the Finish Line, Now What?

runners stretching after a race

After the NYC Half, New York Road Runners hosted a live chat with primary sports medicine physician Dr. William Briner on race recovery. The following is an excerpt from the chat, with answers provided by Dr. Briner.

The information provided in this chat is for informational and educational purposes, and doesn’t constitute medical or health advice for any individual problem. Please consult with your health care providers for any health problem and/or prior to starting any new exercise regimen and/or medication or changing or discontinuing any medication you have been prescribed. This chat is not intended to create a physician-patient relationship, or any other duty, between you and any member of HSS’ medical team.

Any tips to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness?

The best way to avoid delayed onset muscle soreness is to increase your training regimen gradually. Don’t add speed or distance too dramatically.

How soon after a full marathon can you start weight lifting?

My best advice is to wait until you wake up and are not sore. That should mean you are recovered enough to start lifting again. Ease back to your regular routine.

Can you share any tips to avoid plantar fasciitis [inflammation of the foot’s heel/sole]?

Runners need to keep their heel cords flexible. Stretch them before and after runs. Face a wall or bar and stagger feet, one in front of the other. Lean into the wall or bar until you feel a stretch in the back heel cord. Hold for a count of 10 then switch. Do five reps on each heel, both with back knee bent and straight.

How can I differentiate between muscle soreness after a race or hard workout and a muscle injury? I cannot tell from the onset timing since I sometimes perform another workout before the muscles have recovered from the previous one.

This is not always an easy question. Muscle soreness is usually in the middle of the muscle, while pain from an injury is usually felt at the tendon. If it hurts in a joint, don’t run through it.

Do you recommend ice baths and for how long? It gets a lot easier once you’ve been in there for more than 10 minutes, but I never know how long to stay and when the benefits stop.

I do recommend ice baths to my patients. I advise patients not to go over 15 minutes.

Would a night splint help ease any Achilles soreness?

Night splints, which provide a mild but consistent Achilles tendon stretch while the user sleeps, may help. It’s probably worth a try. Just note that this practice may take a few months to work. Make sure to stretch while you’re awake, too.

I have been sidelined with ITBS [iliotibial band syndrome]. Should I wait to run until I am completely pain free? If it is still a bit sore, will I aggravate it by running?

If you are doing your stretches consistently and ease into training slowly, you may be ok. Start by running only every other day to give your body a chance to heal from the strain.

My quads and the outsides of my upper legs are very sore. Any suggestions for how to speed the healing process?

Cross-leg stretches may help you. Standing, cross one leg in front of the other. Bend forward at the waist until you feel a stretch in the back leg. Hold for a count of 10 then switch. Do five reps on each side. If the pain persists, see a physical therapist or physician.

Are compression socks good for pre/post recovery?

It is not proven that compression socks will help with a quicker recovery. If you had swelling from an injury, they might help address that.

How long should you stretch for after a half marathon? I saw a lot of people skip the post-race stretching zone and wanted to warn them how much more sore they would be!

Every little bit helps. Static stretching after physical activity – especially for as long a duration as a half-marathon – is vital to prevent injury and will help prolonged soreness. Run through a quick routine to address each major muscle group – calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes.

Dr. William Briner, sports medicine surgeon

Dr. William W. Briner is a primary sports medicine physician specializing in the non-surgical treatment of acute and over-use injuries in active patients. Dr. Briner has served as a team physician for the WNBA Chicago Sky, the U.S. national soccer teams, and several high school and college teams. He is currently the head team physician for the U.S. national volleyball teams, in addition to chairing the Sports Medicine and Performance Commission for USA Volleyball. Dr. Briner sees patients at HSS Long Island as well as at the HSS main campus.

Topics: Performance
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.