I competed in the big Charlotte Spartan Race with my friend Paul Wilson yesterday. I had so much fun….in a sick kind of way. It was a great race loaded with challenging obstacles, amazing athletes and all the passion that makes Spartan Races so special.
Getting out of the car after the 7-hour ride back home to Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, two things were crystal clear to me:
- I’ll be racing plenty of Spartan Races in the near future.
- I will be stiff and sore in the morning.
After 26 years as a physical therapist/athletic trainer in the National Football League, a certified Spartan SGX Coach and a veteran racer, I’ve learned plenty of sports medicine tricks to accelerate an athlete’s recovery.
I’d like to share some of those Recovery Tips with my fellow Spartans.
Why am I sore?
Obstacle racing isn’t easy. When you look back on the race, you may focus on the obstacles themselves but the truth is there are plenty of elements during a Spartan Race that factor into why you’re walking like 70 year old on broken glass the next morning!
- Soft tissue inflammation – the typical result of prolonged stress on tendons, muscles, ligaments and fascia.
- Scrapes, scratches and bruises – from climbing, crawling and falling.
- Increased joint stress – arches, ankles, knees, hips, low back,..etc. are aggressively compressed with ever step on ever-changing surfaces.
- Lactic acid – your body’s “exhaust” or waste product produced during intense muscle activity.
Sports Medicine Tips to Accelerate your Recovery
Joint Motion – Almost all 360 joints in your body are used in an obstacle course race. Many of those joints were stretches and twisted in a manner quite different than how they move during your 9-5 job. Simple and slow stretches and movements from your neck to your big toe will enhance vital inner-joint lubrication and help restore normal joint motion.
Hydrate & Eat Healthy– Drinking lots of water with healthy foods will help your body flush out the “bad stuff” while replacing the “good stuff” such as inner muscle fluids, healthy calories, sodium (salt) and important electrolytes.
Drain your Legs – Elevate your legs straight up in the air while pumping your ankles and toes 3x/day. Gravity was not your friend in the race but now it’s time to take advantage of gravity to help your lymphatic system to drain “the bad stuff” from your loyal legs.
Just Run – “What?!” Trust me on this one….running the next day after a race is a key part of your recovery. It only needs to be an easy 1 mile trot on the soccer field or a 10 minutes of light side-shuffles and agility drills in the back yard. Your legs will thank you two days from now.
Massage and Stretch – Get your feet, legs, hips and low back massaged and stretched as soon as possible to minimize the amount of waste products from embedded in the membranes of your muscles.
Ice and Compression Are Your Best Friends – Sure Ice hurts but ice a valuable tool for serious athletes training and racing hard. If you have localized pain or swelling in a muscle or joint, ice the area for 15 minutes followed by a compression sleeve.
Wound Care – Like friendly reminders, the flesh wounds are there. From the scrapes to the cuts to the blisters to the “where-did-that-come-from?”. Take care of open wounds quickly to avoid complications by cleaning the open wounds thoroughly with soap & water, applying an antibiotic ointment and, if needed, covering them with a sterile dressing.
Spartans Heal Fast
Recovering quickly will get you back to what you want to do: Living a healthy and active lifestyle. Challenges await you and having a plan of attack for the aches and pains that come with those challenges will surely make you stronger.