Evidence-based Running Recovery
Following long distance running events such as the Melbourne Marathon, it is common for participants to be sore, fatigued and have immune system dysfunction. In recreational runners, this soreness and fatigue often lasts for a minimum of 24 hours. So, what is the best way to facilitate recovery following a running event?
There are many factors which feed into the recovery of running athletes including the distance they run, the intensity of the run and their training regime. We have broken this blog down into a simplified up-to-date evidence guide for your recovery.
Immersion in cold water has been shown to improve perceived fatigue levels, and therefore may assist long-distance runners in returning to light exercise sooner (Wiewelhove et al., 2018). Cryotherapy has also been shown to improve muscle soreness and increase the rate of creatine kinase clearance as this enzyme accumulates during distance running (Moore et al., 2022). It is important to note that the physiological benefits of cold-water immersion is less evident in the literature, meaning that whilst the cold water immersion may make you feel better, there is less of an effect on metabolic processes or tissue healing.
Wiewelhove et al. (2018) shows that massage acts similarly to cold water immersion in improving perceived fatigue levels and muscle soreness after a long-distance run. Massage does not yield significant improvements in future performance or change the physiological biomarkers associated with activity, however, can reduce muscle soreness and pain (Davis et al., 2020).
Hamstring inflammation is often increased following a half marathon. Foam rolling through the hamstring yielded some short-term benefits in inflammation following a half marathon, however, these effects only last 30-60 minutes (Shu et al., 2020).
Nutrition and Hydration
It is incredibly important to adopt appropriate nutritional intake following a long distance run. Proteins, amino acids, anti-oxidants and particular supplements have been shown to benefit muscle recovery (Mielgo-Ayuso et al., 2021), however, we suggest contacting a registered Dietitian as the needs of each individual tend to vary.
Hydration is very well evidenced in the literature, especially due to the large volume of water that is lost during the run.
Beetroot juice has been known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and vasodilating properties, however, a recent study shows that the consumption of beetroot juice did not significantly expedite the recovery process of marathon runners within 48 hours of their run (Stander et al 2021).
Active Recovery vs Passive Recovery
Active recovery usually adopts the use of low to moderate intensity activity whilst passive recovery encourages participants to rest. Whilst active recovery does have some improvements in perceived fatigue and muscle soreness, there remains a debate on when the best time is to commence active recovery as well as the dosage for this exercise. Many studies have found that passive and active recovery do not yield significantly different results. In addition, active recovery should be used with caution if there were any injuries sustained during the event.
As you can see, there are many forms of recovery that you can explore following a long distance run. If you have any issues, please reach out to a health professional. The Movement Workshop Physiotherapy South Melbourne is here to assist your recovery and performance, feel free to contact us with any questions.
Davis, H. L., Alabed, S., & Chico, T. J. A. (2020). Effect of sports massage on performance and recovery: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 6(1), e000614.
Mielgo-Ayuso, J., & Fernández-Lázaro, D. (2021). Nutrition and Muscle Recovery. Nutrients 2021, 13, 294.
Moore, E., Fuller, J. T., Buckley, J. D., Saunders, S., Halson, S. L., Broatch, J. R., & Bellenger, C. R. (2022). Impact of cold-water immersion compared with passive recovery following a single bout of strenuous exercise on athletic performance in physically active participants: a systematic review with meta-analysis and meta-regression. Sports Medicine, 52(7), 1667-1688.
Shu, D., Zhang, C., Dai, S., Wang, S., Liu, J., & Ding, J. (2021). Acute Effects of Foam Rolling on Hamstrings After Half-Marathon: A Muscle Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study. Frontiers in Physiology, 12, 723092.
Stander, Z., Luies, L., van Reenen, M., Howatson, G., Keane, K. M., Clifford, T., ... & Loots, D. T. (2021). Beetroot juice—a suitable post-marathon metabolic recovery supplement?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 18(1), 72.
Wiewelhove, T., Schneider, C., Döweling, A., Hanakam, F., Rasche, C., Meyer, T., ... & Ferrauti, A. (2018). Effects of different recovery strategies following a half-marathon on fatigue markers in recreational runners. PLoS One, 13(11), e0207313.