Post-race recovery – what to do next!

by Dr. Ed Kornoelke | Medical Director, Gazelle Girl Half Marathon

Way to go!  The race is almost here.  You will be finishing the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon or 5K and may wonder what to do next.  Here are a few pointers:

Hydrate and refuel right after the race.  There will be food and drink at the finish line—eat and drink up!  Make sure you get some protein to help repair damaged muscles and carbohydrates to replenish the fuel you used.

Some rest from heavy training is needed after any race—the longer the race the longer the rest.  While there are no specific guidelines that have been scientifically verified, some suggest one day of “rest” for each mile run—13 days if you ran the half marathon.  I believe that a reasonable approach is 3-5 days of complete rest, followed by 20-30 minutes of light cardio work (running, cycling or swimming) 2-3 times during the first week of recovery.  This is called active rest.  Push-ups, sit-ups, and light weight training are OK too.  Rolling and massage therapy are also good ideas.

If you are feeling good at this point (7-10 days out from the race), Susan S. Paul, MS from Runner’s World suggests doing a “reverse taper” by repeating your taper weeks in reverse order, gradually increasing the distance of your runs to close out the first post-race month.  Keep the intensity level at 60-80% of max heart rate during these runs.

It is not unusual to have some muscle or bone pain after a race.  Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) may actually make you feel more sore several days after the race.  This is due to microscopic muscle tissue damage—the better condition you are in going into the event the less likely this is to occur.  This should improve over the next few days, and go away.  If pain localizes to one area, or doesn’t go away after 7-10 days, consider seeing a sports medicine physician.  If you have severe pain, or the pain is getting worse, consider seeing the physician sooner.

One way to assess how your recovery is going is by monitoring your resting heart rate (RHR).  This is best measured by taking your HR early in the morning just after waking up in the weeks leading up to the race.  If while you are performing your recovery runs your RHR is returning to pre-race levels, your recovery is on target.  If it is staying elevated, your intensity is likely too great.  This is also a good way to monitor your pre-race training as well—if you notice you RHR going up as you train, you are not allowing your body enough time to recover between hard workouts.

What about racing?  After a half marathon, 6-8 weeks is appropriate (before running another long race—probably a 10 miler or longer).  Muscle regeneration continues to occur for many weeks after an event like this.  Racing too quickly can damage muscles that are still healing, causing pain, limiting performance, and setting you up for other injuries.  Running a shorter race (5K) is OK as part of your recovery.

I know that a number of you are planning to use the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon as a “training” run for the Fifth Third River Bank Run, or the Bayshore Marathon or other spring marathons.  Hopefully you will do just that—run a training run at a training run pace.  If so, you should be right on track for your next event, and this did not count as a “race.”  If you instead get caught up in the moment and run pretty fast, make sure you get plenty of rest and consider doing some (a lot) of cross training between your Gazelle Girl finish and your next race.

There are many places to find us if needed.  We have locations with sports med doctors all over town—check us out at for more information.  We are also seeing patients at the Metro Health Sports Medicine Center inside the Spartan Stores YMCA at the Metro Health Village.  Call 252-7778 for more information or to schedule an appointment.  And don’t forget about Injury Wise at Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids every Wednesday night from 6-8 PM.  These are brief one on one sessions open to active individuals of all ages and sports.  Contact Gazelle Sports for more information.

Be active!

Edwin-Kornoelje-sportsDr Kornoelje has always had a passion for sports. Throughout his school career, he was involved in several sports including track and soccer, both as a player and aacoach. As such, he has been exposed to both the participant mentality as well as the injury side of Sports Medicine.

This passion for sport inspired him to enter the medical profession. He graduated from Calvin College & earned his medical degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. As a family practice physician, he then completed his Sports Medicine Fellowship at Metro Health Hospital.

Dr. Kornoelje currently serves as the Medical Director for Metro Health Sports Medicine, and is also the team physician for the Grand Rapids Griffins, West Michigan Whitecaps, Grand Rapids Rampage & West Michigan Edge. In addition to working with several area colleges & high schools, Dr. Kornoelje also serves as Medical Director for many local community events, including the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon.

Dr. Kornoelje has continued to find time to run as well as play & coach soccer in the midst of running a busy practice. This gives him a more hands on approach in his field as he works hard to find a balance between treating athletes as well as being an athlete. Since becoming involved with the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon, Dr K has competed in one full marathon and three half marathons, with two more full marathons on the schedule. If he can do it, so can you!