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When I first started triathlon, I jumped right into doing Ironman. I wanted to hear the words, “Andy Fenack, you are an Ironman.” After all, “…you are an Olympic distance triathlon finisher…” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
As this was pre-PT days, I was fairly naïve with my training and nutrition, and I basically just went for it without too much guidance. I actually finished my first Ironman unscathed, then immediately signed up for another the following year. Aaaaaaand … seamless transition to injury and the introduction of physical therapy into my life.
Ever feel the pressure that you need to do one long training weekend after another to complete a marathon or triathlon? Ever feel that your weekdays are spent recovering/preparing for those long training weekends? Yup. That was me.
Leading up to that second Ironman, I felt that I needed ride 100 miles and run as long as I could every weekend. I was overtrained, injured and mentally drained from the “every weekend must be long” philosophy. Luckily, I had the opportunity to work with a highly skilled and inspiring PT who got me to the finish line of that second Ironman.
One day in a pre-race discussion, he said, “We’re JUST GETTING STARTED after you finish this race.” That made so much sense to me. I wouldn’t be coming into his office on Mondays hobbled with my “every weekend must be long” plan, and we could actually get to work on solving the underlying problems that led me there in the first place.
I finished that race, and we just got started in the weeks after that. I didn’t have to experience — errr, suffer — through as many intense soft tissue sessions on my beat-up joints and muscles, and he helped me started moving in ways that increased my mobility and made me stronger.
I was able to develop a strength and conditioning program suitable for an endurance athlete that would balance my training the following year. After all, simply going to the gym and lifting stuff isn’t going to cut it.
I went into the next year stronger and more mobile than I’d been, and I showed up at start lines healthy. Lo and behold, I went faster at all distances than I had previously.
So. Now let’s talk about you. You’ve completed your goal races and hopefully had enough fun to want to race again next year. What does this “off-season” look like for you?
Here are some suggestions to help guide you (from someone who’s learned the hard way):
Give yourself some time off.
Go out with friends, enjoy our great city, sleep in and don’t work out one weekend. And when you do go for a run again, don’t wear a watch. Just go out and run because you want to for as long as you feel like it. My watch broke recently, and I’ve had a blast the past couple of weeks just running for the sake of running.
Continue — or finally start — physical therapy.
If you’ve been coming in to see us before your race, chances are good that the underlying issues that brought you to PT in the first place have not been solved. Discuss your goals and off-season plans with your PT and learn new movement patterns to increase strength and mobility now that you’re not running as much. We will help you develop a program that you can carry forward with you to balance your training for the coming years.
After all, you want to do this for the rest of your life don’t you? Most runners and triathletes move in the same plane of motion over and over again. Humans are built to move in multiple directions, and when we don’t, the result is breakdown and injury. Finish Line physical therapists are the local experts at getting you to move in directions that are out of your norm. Come check it out.
If you want to do long distance races next year, pick ONE or TWO to focus on.
There’s a reason that most professional runners and triathletes don’t race more than two marathons or two Ironman triathlons per year. Many of them would only do one if racing organizations and sponsors didn’t require them to do more than that. And they do this stuff for a living.
So you working professionals who want to do more than a couple of long distance races over the course of the year, beware burn out and injury. You’ve been warned. Make one race — your goal race — special. Focus your energy towards that.
Do something new.
Use the winter months to try a new sport. Cross country skiing, snowshoe running, swimming, boxing, rock climbing — SOMETHING new and different that will challenge you to move in ways you’re not used to moving. After all, a better mover is a better athlete.
If you need a bit of a guide, here’s what an “off-season” week looks like for me.
Overall, I try to be flexible with no specific plan on any one day. The only constant is strength and mobility work 3 to 5 times per week. Yes: 3 to 5 times per week. And I don’t mean stretching or foam rolling. That’s daily. Again, you want to do this the rest of your life, correct?
- Monday: Run to work. Nothing better than a super-cold early-morning run to start the week off, in my opinion. Snowing? Even better! I love running in the snow.
- Tuesday: Strength/mobility.
- Wednesday: Swim or bike and strength/mobility.
- Thursday: Run and strength/mobility.
- Friday: Off or yoga.
- Saturday: My “something new” day. I’ll check the snow reports for cross country skiing, sign up for a class I’ve never done or go throw around the Vipr in ways I haven’t before.
- Sunday: Swim, bike or run and strength/mobility. Or do more of what I did on Saturday.
Picture this: you’ve had your goal race circled on the calendar for months (ahem, New York City and other fall marathoners). You begin training… then the aches & pains settle in (as they do in the midst of marathon training). You become a regular at physical therapy, which helps you get you to the start line.
Race day comes, you cross the finish line (yay!)… and then what?
Most athletes think that, because they’ve completed their race, they no longer need physical therapy. The goal was to cross the finish line, right? Why continue PT if I’m not immediately training for anything else?
Whether or not you have another race on the horizon, all athletes would benefit from continuing physical therapy sessions post-race as part of an active recovery. The goal of PT is ALWAYS to determine the root cause of the injury and return the athlete to 100%, but that’s oftentimes difficult due to the high demands of training.
Call it rehab or prehab at this point – but the “off-season” is the best time to correct the biomechanical root cause of an injury when the demands of training are no longer part of the equation.
What is the most effective approach to recovery?
Immediately After the Race
The first week post-race should be all about rest. As in, do nothing. Some will say that you can introduce light running or easy cross-training after 3 to 7 days of inactivity – but studies show that athletes who completely take off at least a week from cardiovascular activity recover faster. Both muscular strength and work capacity are impaired if one jumps right back into exercise the first week, whereas it returns more quickly with total rest. Opt for an active recovery, including daily stretching, self-myofascial work, hydrating, eating quality foods and getting extra sleep.
When Can I Run Again? Try A Reverse Taper
It’s the question everyone always asks first. Everyone’s response is different, but in general, it takes 4-8 weeks to fully recover from a marathon. Many experts agree that one of the best ways to get back into running is through a reverse taper. Exercise physiologist Pete Pfitzinger recommends running 50% of your usual weekly mileage the second week and 75% the third week, all at an easy to moderate intensity.
Pfitzinger also suggests a simple mini-speed test to complete at the end of the third week to see if you’re ready to resume speedwork. Start by running a half-mile at your 10K race pace. If you’re able to run easily without any residual soreness, you can resume your normal training routine. If you experience any stiffness, take another week at 75% mileage with no speedwork, then repeat the test.
Why Physical Therapy Is An Important Part of the Equation
The first four weeks of the recovery phase are also an optimal time to continue physical therapy. Your body is no longer experiencing the microscopic damage to muscle fibers and the surrounding connective tissue that is caused by the repetitive movements and daily stresses of heavy training.
During periods of heavy training, treatment oftentimes has to be introduced gradually, and results can take longer to achieve than the time a PT has before the race. Once you’re free of these daily rigors, those issues become obsolete. A PT is no longer hindered by training and can treat with less resistance and fewer setbacks. The focus shifts to rebuilding a solid foundation and helping you return as a stronger athlete.
Even if you have no plans to compete in another race, who doesn’t want to enjoy your normal daily activities without pain?
During a period of active recovery, PTs will continue to draw from all of the tools in our Functional Toolbox:
- 3D exercises to build strength, mobility, flexibility, balance and endurance
- Manual soft tissue work to restore tissue health and movement, including Active Release Techniques and ASTYM Treatment
- Home exercise programs to optimize recovery
Take care of yourself now so your body will be strong for next season.
A version of this blog post was first published on the New York Flyers’ “News on the Run” blog as “Post-Marathon Recovery Tips”.
In the running world, October is a busy month! Fall marathon season is in full swing, and we’ve got people in our community running Wineglass, Steamtown, Chicago, Marine Corps, New York, Philadelphia … to name just a few.
Lots of races … and lots of miles on those already weary marathon legs that have been going strong since the summer.
In order to reach new limits of pace, distance and achievement, it’s important to balance the effort with a recovery plan. Post-workout recovery enables your body to rebuild itself in response to all the stress you place on it during periods of hard effort.
Finish Line Physical Therapy has some great tools that will provide relief after long weeks of training, prepare you to be your best on race day and help you recover faster after you’ve crossed the finish line.
For most people, getting a massage falls into the “nice to have” category. It’s something you might do once or twice a year because mom gave you a gift certificate for your birthday. But when it comes to training for a distance event, consider thinking about soft tissue work as one tool in your toolbox when you look at your overall health and overall training plan.
Massage that emphasizes functional soft tissue therapy helps to release the soft tissue restrictions that often cause pain and inhibit movement. In tandem with regular stretching, foam rolling and mobility work, massage can promote better blood flow to help reverse the repetitive movements and daily stresses of training. Be nice to your body so it will be nice to you on race day!
Prepare your body for race-day by scheduling a massage 5-7 days before the race. Or help expedite your body’s recovery with a post-race massage 2-3 days after you cross the finish line. Call the office today to schedule an appointment with Sara Hunninghake, our staff LMT!
NormaTec Compression Sleeves
We may or may not have started calling these the “magic sleeves” around the office. The NormaTec compression sleeves are one of the best tools for increasing circulation, decreasing inflammation and speeding up recovery. Particularly beneficial after a long run, intense workout or a RACE, the sleeves use a unique massage pattern to provide dynamic compression to the limbs, thereby enhancing the movement of fluids. Even spending as little as 20 minutes can help an athlete recover faster than waiting for the body to recover on its own.
[Read more about the science behind NormaTec recovery.]
Finish Line PT patients are welcome to use the sleeves for free as part of their rehab. We welcome non-patients to use them for a nominal fee. Call the office today to schedule an appointment, and let the sleeves work their magic!
110% Play Harder
Finish Line PT is partnering with 110% Play Harder to provide quality products that help our patients reach their individual finish lines.
110% Play Harder creates products that allow you to transition from high performance to active recovery in one step. The combination of compression plus ice or heat therapy helps to speed recovery, enhance performance and decrease chance of injury. 110% zoned, gradient compression helps to reduce swelling and increase circulation while you’re working out. 110% compression plus ice/heat provides you with a mobile post-recovery tool that is both convenient and simple to use.
Gone are the days of trying to awkwardly wrap a bag of ice around your knee or use saran wrap to ice your ankle (plus, is it ever tight enough?). 110% products allow for targeted placement of reusable inserts that can be frozen or heated up in the microwave to prevent swelling and reduce inflammation.
To view the complete product line, check out the 110% online store. We’ve got samples of all their products in the office in case you want to check them out before ordering.
We are excited to announce that Finish Line Physical Therapy is expanding!
Starting November 3, we will begin seeing patients at “Finish Line East,” our new location inside of Halevy Life at 212 East 57th Street (at 3rd Avenue). Conveniently located near major subways on the east side, our second location will be in a stunning, spacious, marble-floored former art gallery.
The main Finish Line location in Chelsea will continue to serve as the hub for all scheduling, insurance inquiries and general questions.
Other than a different address (and for our east-side patients, less travel time!), we hope everything about Finish Line East will feel familiar! The hours will also be 6:45 a.m. to 8:15 p.m., and treatments will be 45 minutes one-on-one with the PT.
We remain committed to the highest quality of care, service and personal attention that you have come to expect at Finish Line. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: our goal is for our patients to receive “five-star service” in an environment that inspires, supports and challenges you to be your best.
We couldn’t have asked for better partners in achieving that goal than Halevy Life, an industry-leading private gym that offers a service-based – not usage-based – membership model. Halevy Life “Raises the Bar” by training every client as if she or he is a professional athlete – and by delivering intelligently designed, systematic, scientific and progressive programming from top-tier coaches.
From the first day I opened Finish Line Physical Therapy, providing the highest quality of care, service and personal attention has always been our top priority. Next to a patient seeing results from physical therapy, nothing else makes us happier than hearing how a person’s experience was the best they’ve ever had.
Even as we’ve grown over the years, our aim remains the same: to provide each patient with “five-star service” in an environment that inspires, supports and challenges you to be your best.
With that goal always in mind, we will transition to 45-minute treatments, one-on-one with the PT, beginning on September 2. All evaluations and follow-up appointments will be 45 minutes with the physical therapist, providing even more one-on-one time for the therapist to further enhance the patient’s manual treatment and exercise program.
Don’t worry – our wonderful aides will still be around the clinic to greet you when you arrive and keep the office running smoothly. However, now you’ll be spending more time under the watchful eye of your PT to complete therapeutic exercises.
We’ve also updated our cancellation and no-show policy to ensure all of our patients have the same opportunity to receive the best care possible. We maintain a strict 12-hour notification cancellation policy with the following in place for late cancels or no shows:
- 1st Late Cancel/No Show – Fee Waived
- 2nd Late Cancel/No Show – $50 Fee
- 3rd Late Cancel/No Show – $75 Fee
- 4th or More Late Cancel/No Show – $100 Fee
We remain committed to doing everything possible to help you achieve your goals. Let us know if there’s ever anything else we can do to make your experience even better!
After running my 3rd marathon, I needed some serious help. I spoke to tons of people I knew from various running groups and on Twitter and they all said the same thing - go to Finish Line. Back there now proactively as I prepare for my next marathon after my hip and knee started bothering me. Feeling fantastic and more ready than ever. — Ben W.
Finish line is awesome. A few years back I started experiencing knee pain while running. They were super helpful identifying the issue (IT band tightness), and working with me with deep tissue massages, foam rollers, and strength building exercise to get me back up and running quickly. — Jonathan W.
I like the environment too; it feels more like a gym than the sterile environments I'm used to seeing at standard clinics. Everyone around the place is in a general good mood -- none of that grumpy New York customer service crap. They all seem to be athletes too. They worked with my insurance as well to get the price reasonable. — Vincent D.