Recovering From a Spartan Race: Sports Medicine Secrets

Source; Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

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:

  1. I’ll be racing plenty of Spartan Races in the near future.
  2. 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 FriendsSure 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.

AROO!

Smart Injury Free Mud Run Racing

Source: Pixabay

This Saturday’s Tough Mudder- Jacksonville is coming to town with lots of hype.  Known for it’s very original and tough-guy obstacles, the Tough Mudder has the local mudders nervous and excited….myself included.

For those of you preparing for your first race in the mud, you’re about to embark on the best workout and challenge of your life!  If you’re a veteran of obstacle races, every race provides you with an opportunity to test the toughness of both your body and your mind.  THAT’s why I continue to sign-up for these challenges and I’m sure I’m not alone in my reasoning.

Keeping it Safe

As a certified athletic trainer and physical therapist in the NFL for 25+ years, I’ve learned a thing or two about staying healthy.  I want to share tips to keep you safe racing in a mud run.  Getting to the finish line is your goal while getting you to that finish line healthy is my goal.

Here’s a few simple sports medicine tips to keep you safer on “race day.”

Before the Mud Run Race…..

Grease Up – Blisters can quickly ruin a great race.  Coating Vaseline on toes, inner thighs and anywhere necessary will enhance your comfort on race day.

Don’t Be a Sponge – Wear thin socks, water-friendly boots/sneakers, non-cotton pants and a thin shirt to avoid carrying an extra 4-5 lbs during the race.

Rollin’ Time – Using a therapy roller before all workouts and races will mobilize your muscles and help you prevent injuries.

Push the Carbs – Bagels, whole-grain cereals and pasta are all smart options. Stop being a “carb hater” and load up the type of fuel that you’ll need during your race.

Be Nice to Your Dogs – Find the right kind of supportive high-top racing shoes and break them in well before the race. Wear thin calf-high socks to reduce your chance of calf and arch strains.

Plank Time – I learned this the hard way. You’ll be doing lots of crawling during the race so performing a few front and side planks before the race.  This will help you engage your entire core musculature for the big race.

During the Mud Run Race…..

Drink Early & Often – In any weather, you need fluids early & often.  A smart plan I use with my professional football players is: “Drink 50% water/50% sports drink before, during & after game day.”  This plan will give you the 4 essentials needed for a hard-working body: fluids, salt, calories and electrolytes.

Smart Footing – Running a more level “line” is not always easy to do with hundreds of athletes around you in the mud.  I rolled my ankle twice in mud runs and both times are when I wasn’t paying attention to where I was running.  A shorter and wider stride will keep your ankles and knees safer on slippery and muddy surfaces.

Climb to the Bottom – I know lots of orthopedic surgeons and lets just say that many of them get lots of customers from mud runs.  Jumping down or climbing off an obstacle is a very common mechanism of injury for mudders.  The solution: Climb down to the bottom of the ladder or obstacle.  Avoid the urge to jump down the last 5 feet just to save an extra few seconds.

Jump Out, Not Down – Water is a common theme in mud races.  Jumping out over the water is safer than jumping down into the edge of the water.  Entering the water away from the closest shore will minimize your risk of being landed on and cut down on your time in the water.

Check out the Scenery During the Race – How is that going to keep me healthy?  High fiving the crowd and thanking the volunteers are two proven examples of ways to slow down, enjoy the fitness fun of a great event and to keep you in the mindset of reaching the end of the race healthy & happy.

Go Time…..

It’s time to get muddy and have some fun.  I hope these tips help keep you healthy and make your race what it’s supposed to be: a fun fitness challenge for you and your friends!

Stay Healthy & Happy!