I know it's normal to feel sore after a long run. But I also know that some of my running friends don't get sore legs to the extent that I do. While a non-running neighbour helpfully suggested that maybe it's because I am older than my running friends (we're talking max four years), I said, "Yeah, maybe...but I think it's because I don't hydrate enough, or perhaps eat the right foods before a race."
My friend Janate, whose legs are not sore today, agreed. She must have drank six bottles of water to my one-and-a-half the day before the race. She also drank lots of water in-between drinking her celebratory wine last night.
I decided to Google "Sore legs after running" and see what advice I could find. I landed on the livestrong.com web site, which I think is fairly reliable, with articles by various writers on health, fitness and general well-being.
Here is a condensed version of what I learned. I found it very enlightening.
Firstly, I do believe I have "DOMS" - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, which, according to an article by Lydia Stephens (livestrong.com) "Occurs 24-48 hours after a run when you've increased the intensity, duration or frequency of running." When we put more stress on our muscles than our body is accustomed to, we create tiny tears in our muscle fibres, that lead to soreness. A little soreness is natural. Proper warming up, gradual distance increases in training and cross-training all help alleviate soreness, and apparently Vitamin E can help with muscle recovery. Further research indicates B-Complex vitamins also help. (Looks like a whole post could be written on vitamins alone.)
Possible Reasons for Sore Legs After Running:
(highlights from an article by Alex O'Meara, livestrong.com)
- Shoes are old and worn (not in my case)
- Running on surfaces that are too hard (like, perhaps, asphalt?)
- Over-training (If anything, I undertrained with the running, skipping mid-week runs and then running long on weekends, essentially increasing the duration and intensity dramatically. Not a good idea.)
- Poor hydration (Ah Ha!)
- Improper nutrition (I could use a few tips)
This article went on to state how important proper hydration is before a run, as well as enough nutrients. The advice came from a veteran marathoner who recommends drinking lots of water or your favourite sports drink or fruit juice and eat some easily digested food before a run, like fig newtons, graham crackers, toast or cereal.
Other tips to help sore legs:
Soak in an ice bath (I did this once after a long training run and it works! You just have to get past the feeling that you are succumbing to hypothermia.)
Get a deep tissue massage (YES! THANK YOU!) or use a self massaging roller (found in running stores). Deep tissue massage increases blood flow to sore muscles and removes yucky garbage like lactic acid from your muscles, opens pores in muscles and breaks up scar tissue so that the lactic acid is freed and the water and nutrients can enter the muscle cells.
RICE - Rest (take a day or two off running); Ice (in a bath or rub legs with ice cubes); Compression (I knew there was a good reason I bought those compression socks and sleeves. Apparently they send the blood that is normally pooled in your muscles thus making them sore, back towards your heart to improve circulation.); Elevation (Raise your legs above your heart to improve leg circulation and flush out waste products like lactic acid. There is a yoga pose called "Legs Up The Wall" that is a perfect match for this. You just lay on the floor with your legs raised up against the wall. Your butt should be as close to the wall as you can "scooch" it. That yoga advice comes from Christine Felstead's "Yoga For Runners" DVD.)
Speaking of yoga, I am off to a yoga workshop now hosted by Thrive Fitness. If I can get out of this chair...