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5 Post-Race Essentials to Maintain Muscle Health

Congratulations, you did it! Completing your fall marathon is a huge accomplishment, and we at Finish Line Physical Therapy are extremely proud of everyone who crossed finish lines this fall. After reaching such a major milestone, it is not uncommon to feel unenthusiastic about running and exercising in general. You did just conquer 26.2, right?

Although your workout routine may be changing–and it is healthy to take some time off after a big race–it is important to give your muscles a little extra TLC right now. You’ve asked a lot of them over the past few months, and maintaining optimal muscle health is critical to your body’s recovery. It is also the first step in preparing properly for your next fitness goal.

Focus on the following post-race muscle health essentials to get the most out of your recovery period:

1- Mobility:
You’ve worked hard to gain and maintain joint motion throughout your training. Don’t stop now! Having the right motion available means your muscles can do their job more efficiently. Lunges in all directions are great for hip mobility, and adding arm reaches overhead, side to side, and rotating opens up your trunk and shoulders as well. For your foot and ankle, stand on one leg and use your knee to drive your weight forward, to the left, and to the right to mobilize your ankle in all directions.

2- Flexibility:
Keep up with dynamic stretching to make sure you don’t lose muscle flexibility. Whether you’re running or not, moving stretches are great to do before you exercise. Focus on hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, and calves, and remember to move into and out of the stretch in all planes of motion (front/back, side/side, rotating).

3- Myofascial Release:
Although you may have a love/hate relationship with your foam roller, continuing to better that relationship is critical for muscle recovery. Muscles are surrounded by thin connective tissue layers called fascia. With exercise, your muscles grow and adapt, and fascial adhesions can form that prevent them from gliding smoothly. Foam rolling hydrates your muscles and fascia, facilitating optimal muscle movement and performance.

4- Cross-Training:
Remember how much you love to do things other than run? Now is the time to get back on your bike, hit the weight room, and jump in the pool. Or try something you’ve never done before and explore your hidden athletic talents. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try yoga, pilates, CrossFit, spinning, or kickboxing. Cross-training is a great way to help your muscles recover. It gives them a different stimulus, which means they are working and staying healthy in ways that will not lead to fatigue from overuse.

5- Nutrition and Hydration:
You learned how to properly eat and drink during training to promote muscle recovery and prepare for race day. It’s now critical to keep up your good nutrition and hydration habits. Your muscles need plenty of protein to rebuild, and water is essential for flushing out cellular toxins and waste. Following a well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids after your race will speed up muscle recovery and allow you to maintain your activity level as you want to.

Visit our online video archive for examples of mobility, flexibility, and foam rolling exercises. If you think you may be injured or have lingering symptoms, it is important to have a professional assessment and address any issues sooner than later. Talk to your Finish Line physical therapist and make sure you’re individualizing your recovery routine properly. This is also a great time to discuss plans for your next race or competition and work on resolving any underlying movement dysfunction.

Of course, take time to celebrate your achievement! And remember: staying fit and healthy is not just a one-time purchase. It is a lifestyle choice, one that you have chosen with purpose and will hopefully continue to choose for years to come.

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