Running is the most popular sport among active Singaporeans. There are over 150 races per year. OSIM Sundown Marathon attracted 26,000 participants this year, while Great Eastern Women’s Run had 17,000 participants. From more established races such as Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore to niche events such as Color Run and Illumi Run, Singaporeans are given so much more options to be engaged in running activities. So much so that the excesses of races have caused run organizers to experience a stagnation in the number of participants, says Mok.
In the frenzy to complete these races, we thought to share the 5 most common but inaccurate post-race recovery methods we engage in.
#1 Soaking in Ice
You’ve just finished the first marathon and your heel is stabbing pain. It’s agonizing and after just having exhausted yourself in the race, you just want to plunge your feet into an ice bath while flicking through the TV.
Does it numb the pain? Yes.
But pain is an indication that there is an inflammation happening at that area. Applying ice to an inflamed area shuts down communication with the nervous system. Instead of having the lymphatic vessels carry excess tissue fluid away, these vessels become ‘leaky’ and tissue fluids end up pouring into the inflamed area. This leads to more local swelling and pressure, and potentially greater pain!
#2 Having a feast
Singaporeans love our food. Especially after a good run, we head to the nearby hawker centre and order our favorite carrot cake or Laksa. Re-fuelling is good but what’s better would be to eat food that speeds up your recovery.
Recall that after a race, your glycogen stores are depleted and your muscles cells are worked and damaged. Good carbohydrates include brown rice, corn and oats (essentially, the ‘whole grain’ family). Glutamine is the amino acid that restores vital fuels for your system. When you consume good carbs together with protein, glycogen replenishment occurs faster than when carbs are consumed alone, and muscle repair occurs faster than when protein is consumed alone.
This is time-specific too – within 1 hour after the run would do you good.
#3 Laying on the couch
Contrary to the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, elevation), movement does a lot to your circulatory system. It keeps your blood flowing and blood carries antioxidants that would neutralize the oxidative molecules produced during exercise. It also brings essential minerals that would help you intake water and hydrate better. Instead of slothing out on the couch, why not take a walk at the local park connector or engage in an active recovery exercise such as Pilates.
#4 Roll back-and-forth the foam roller
One obvious trend in the fitness industry is using the foam roller. Not much is fully understood about it, and those new to foam rolling end up laying over it with a phone held above their heads. That’s not doing as much as it potentially could in relieving tight muscles.
When you want to alleviate any pain in your overactive muscles, there are 2 good methods to try:
- Static Stretching requires you hold your stretch for at least 30s. Go slow at first and while holding the position, keep your breathing steady.
- Self-Myofascial Release (which is Foam Rolling)
Don’t misunderstand – celebrating after a race is your well-deserved right. But it becomes a concern when you a) forget to sleep enough and b) drink alcohol. Matt Fitzgerald, if you read his book, warns against drinking alcohol after races because it interferes with rehydration.
If you’re running to keep fit or running to lose weight, you won’t want the post-run activity to contradict your intentions. If you’re running to challenge yourself or running for the fun of it, you won’t want to negate your run achievement by destroying your body in the aftermath.
Either way, you’ve heard it before – “Take care of yourself because it’s the only one you’ve got.”