The following question was asked during one of our Ask the Coaches sessions on July 7, 2021 and was answered by Coach Gael and Coach Yvel.
Natural recovery is best. Coach Gael and Yvel do not recommend taking them. Instead, evaluate your discomfort – is it muscle soreness or indeed pain. Seek the advice of a credentialed physician, do not self-diagnose or ask the internet. The coaches recommend natural recovery for muscle soreness including rest and recovery. If you train appropriately, you will never have the use for topical pain relief aids.
- Do NOT run through pain, no matter what your tolerance is. Pain is different from soreness and discomfort. It’s common for a lot of runners to run through pain, but it can build up and worsen, especially around the joints (ankles, knees, hips) with harmful long-lasting effects. If the joint has any issues, constant impact on pavement will worsen it, may result in surgery, or at worst, the inability to continue running.
Differentiate between different types of pain.
- Muscle pain means that the muscle is overworked, but if the pain is continuous, you may have strained it. Rest is important to let the muscle fibers regenerate; apply R.I.C.E. therapy and ensure that you are hydrated with enough water.
- Joint pain can result from a number of factors but results from continuous impact on pavement will exacerbate it.
Rest, recover, and sleep!
- Rest is CRUCIAL and it will allow you a better and mindful performance and running economy. Depending on your activity and the intensity, recovery requires 24-48 hours of rest. Coach Gael runs 4 days a week, cross trains 1 day and rests 2 days a week to let the muscles recover. Some of Coach Gael’s personal records came from being rested.
Make sure to stretch.
- Many athletes have tight IT bands and hip flexors from not stretching and recovering enough after training. When you see people waddling at the end of a marathon, unable to bend their knees, it could be the cause of these two work horses that are often used, but rarely stretched.
- If you don’t stretch, it leads to ultra-tightness in the muscles, a poor running or racing experience. An overused muscle will take longer to work out its soreness if it is not loved by stretching, rolling, massaging, or even an ice bath.
What if you end up needing to use pain relief aids?
- They should be diagnosed by your doctor, but knowing that folks will do what they feel is best for them, do not apply topical balms unless you go through a warmup. They can create a false sense of preparation and make the muscles seem to be warmed up when they are not.
- Biofreeze: If you want to use it, try it out on a run or two before your race to see how it is received by your body. All of these things only bring temporary relief for muscle soreness, we recommend you back off training and apply natural remedies such ice, massage, and rest.
For more ways to take care of your body during your fitness journey, check out Proper Recovery.