Photos & text by Morgan Sjogren, aka the @running_bum_
I should know better. Twenty miles into the Moab Trail Marathon (also the U.S. Trail Marathon Championships) I am greeted by the familiar aches and pains that are always guaranteed at races, where medals and podium finishes are not. My quads and knees ache from the pounding of fast paced downhill running and leaping off slickrock ledges, my hip flexors groan after pulling me up a 1,000 foot climb, and my feet have been tenderized like slabs of beef. Of course, none of these annoyances are injuries; they are just signs that my body is digging deep to get me to the finish line as fast as possible.
While it’s a given to treat an overuse or impact injury right away with rest, ice, and other more formal treatments, general soreness muscle breakdown from a run, hike, bike, climb, or long day out skiing is its own work of art:
- Eat and drink! This sounds counterintuitive, but the sooner (within 15 minutes to an hour of finishing) that you can get a few hundred quality calories inside of you that blend carbohydrates and protein, the sooner muscle repair and recovery can begin. Some of my favorites are chocolate milk and a banana, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bean burritos.
- Ice bath. I know that this sounds like treating pain with more pain but the cold water will work to take down the inflammation in your muscles. If there is a nearby creek, lake or body of water that is a reasonable temperature I recommend icing there the natural way. Take a seat or stand waist deep and enjoy the beauty of nature for 10 or 15 minutes. If that isn’t possible you can fill a bathtub with cool water and add a small bag of ice. Wear a jacket and sip a warm drink to make this more enjoyable.
- Massage. A massage doesn’t just feel good, it helps flush waste products from muscles, increase circulation and blood flow and breaks up any adhesions or tight spots in your muscles. The good news is you don’t need to spend a ton of money at a spa to get the benefits—you can even massage yourself (of course it’s always nice to grab a friend or loved one to help with harder to reach areas). Use a few drops of Green Goo’s 100% natural Body & Massage Oil (with Calendula to promote healing) to massage the muscle belly in long sweeping strokes. If you notice any tight or knotted areas spend extra time on the surfaces surrounding it before applying gentle pressure to the knot itself to help it release.
- Go herbal. Herbs like arnica can work wonders to decrease inflammation and pain in your muscles and joints. I put Green Goo Pain Relief salve on any areas that are especially sore or bordering on injury a few times a day post race. The herbal blend acts as a form of hot/cold therapy to help increase circulation. You can even use this ointment in lieu of oil for your massage.
- Active rest. It’s essential to take some time off running after a big race or run to give your body a break from all of the pounding and to actually let it heal. You don’t just want to become a total couch potato though. Gentle yoga or stretching, light walking, or time in a pool will help keep your muscles loose and the blood circulating for optimal recovery.
Recovery times can vary a ton between people and even after each type of race or run. My rule of thumb is to spend at least three days to a week focused completely on recovery, and then I take it case by case from there. The most important thing is to listen to your body and let it recoup on its own time. You will know when you are recovered when you once again have some spring in your step, no soreness and boundless energy to hit the trails again!