Post marathon tips to minimize pain, injury

Marathon training takes months to get into shape to run or even walk the 26.2 mile course. However, little attention is given to what a marathon participant should do after the race to help speed recovery, minimize discomfort and prevent an injury. For those who competed in the marathon, and even those who participate in rigorous workouts and events, my tips and recommendations were published in the Daily Herald’s Health & Fitness section. The article follows as well as a link to the online edition.

Tips for Runners Recovering from a Marathon

By Dr. Steven C. Chudik
Special to the Daily Herald

Congratulations to the 45,000 runners in the Chicago Marathon. If you were among them, your race recovery is as important to getting you back to your peak performance as the time and effort you spent training. Although everyone’s fitness levels vary, there are some key things to do starting today to minimize discomfort and prevent an injury.

The medical and running communities don’t have set rehydration guidelines. One of the most used methods is to monitor the color of your urine. It should be nearly clear, not the color of beer. Drink small amounts of fluids—four to six ounces at a time—today and tomorrow even if you feel a little nauseous. Sports drinks are a great choice, as well as chocolate milk, water, soup and even V8 juice. Avoid alcohol. It will further dehydrate you.

Don’t be a couch potato today. Sitting will further stiffen your muscles. You need to walk and keep moving. Also, perform light stretching and a warm-up for those aching muscles with a short bike ride, swim, or warm shower. Gently working muscles helps avoid cramps and dissipate the buildup of lactic acid. I know many runners will go for a short run today, or even resume training. However, returning too soon can cause injuries because your muscles, tendons and joints need time to recover, as does any swelling or edema in your legs and ankles.

Avoid the all you can eat buffets and big meals. Your system is in recovery mode and needs to replenish muscle glycogen (energy stores). Eat small amounts of nutrient-rich foods every few hours like steak, chicken, turkey, sweet potatoes and vegetables such as broccoli and carrots. Also, berries, nuts, yogurt and even ice cream make great treats and snacks.

Rest. Wait five to seven days before running again and start slowly on soft surfaces. Don’t run more than 25 percent of your peak weekly mileage and gradually work back to your training regimen.

Ice. Soak in a cold bath for up to ten minutes every couple of hours, or use an ice pack or even bags of frozen peas for up to 20 minutes every two hours to decrease swelling and speed healing. Always keep a barrier such as a towel between your skin and frozen ice source to prevent burns.

Compression. Use of compression socks will help reduce and minimize leg swelling.

Elevate. When not walking, elevate your legs

Feeling sore after a marathon is normal, but continuous pain and/or swelling are not. If you’ve followed all the recommended post-race recovery tips and you are not getting any relief, call your physician. It is important to be evaluated and any treatment started so you’re not watching from the sidelines at next year’s marathon.

Dr. Steven C. Chudik, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, treats patients at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. Find more information about Dr. Chudik at

To read the online version, click here.

Photo by the Daily Herald.


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