Crossing the Finish Line: Race-Day Tips for New Marathoners

Friday, October 11, 2013 10:31 AM comments (0)

marathonYou’ve come all this way. You’ve spent months training and run hundreds of miles to prepare for race day. Don’t let a preventable injury keep you from crossing that finish line or ruin the prospects of running marathon number two in the near future.

From mile one to the final stretch, stay injury-free with these tips from Carrie Jaworski, MD, Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine at NorthShore: 

  • Don’t try something new on race day. This rule applies to nearly everything. Don’t eat a food you haven’t eaten during training. It could upset your stomach and result in more time than you would like spent in the restrooms along the race route. Don’t wear clothing you haven’t worn before, from shorts and shirts to socks and shoes. Untested clothing might feel fine at mile five but by mile 18 you could be dealing with race-ending chafing or blisters.
  • Start slow and maintain a steady pace. Don’t let the excitement at the starting line get the best of you. There are 26.2 miles ahead of you, so conserve your energy and start slow. Passing and weaving amongst the thousands of runners at the starting line also increases the possibility of injury from tripping and falling. Maintaining a steady pace means you’ll finish strong instead of struggling to the end. 
  • Have a plan about fluid intake. Prepare ahead of time by staying hydrated on the days leading up to the race. Your urine should be clear yellow, not dark. On race day, you should alternate water and an electrolyte drink at the pace you established during your training. Be careful to avoid drinking at every fluid station, as that can increase your risk of hyponatremia (low blood sodium). A good rule of thumb is to drink 4-6 ounces every 15-20 minutes after the first 30-60 minutes of exercise.  Be sure to consume gels with water. And don’t forget to hydrate after the race as well!
  • Listen to your body. If the race doesn’t go as planned, don’t ignore what your body is telling you. There are medical aid stations throughout the course and at the finish line to help you if you are unsure. Remember, no matter what happens, you have already succeeded by all the hard work you put in to get to the starting line.
  • Bring a change of clothes. Always have a change of warm, dry clothes waiting for you after the race. You’ll need to keep your muscles warm to avoid cramping after the race is over. Depending on the weather, if you sit in sweat-soaked clothes for too long, you risk developing hypothermia.
  • Stretch! Make sure to stretch and roll out sore muscles soon after finishing the race. Stretching after the race is an important way to help minimize muscle soreness the next day. Scheduling a massage for the next day is good too!

Wishing Chicago Marathon runners, old and new, a happy and successful race day from NorthShore University HealthSystem. 

After the Finish Line: Recovering from a Race

Monday, October 08, 2012 10:01 AM comments (0)

The months of training have come to a close and you’ve crossed the finish line. Now what?

Carrie Jaworksi, MD, Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine and a physician at NorthShore, offers her insight on what to expect after the race and how to recover adequately to ensure that you are ready to race again another day:

Immediately After the Race : Once you cross that finish line there are a handful of things that you'll need to do to help your body recover. Eat something! It’s important to replenish the energy stores you depleted during the race. Initially, it’s best to start with a sports drink and food that is easy to digest. If you can’t tolerate sports drinks, then take  bananas, yogurt and pretzels to the finish line instead. Gradually work up to a high-carbohydrate post-race dinner to further assist you in replenishing your energy stores.

Taking a cold bath and icing your muscles is recommended to help prevent muscle soreness but don’t do that immediately. It is more important to keep moving in that first 30 to 60 minutes. You'll be tired but try to resist the urge to sit; instead, take a long walk back to your hotel or car. Your body will thank you for it later.

The Next Day: You ran for a long time and chances are you are you'll wake up sore the next day. To help ease your muscle pain, plan ahead and schedule a massage for the days following the race. It will certainly help to alleviate your soreness and speed your recovery. Plan on being sore for a few days. Take it easy while you are recovering.

Post-Event Emotions: You may feel down after the race. Think about it: You’ve been training for this event, both physically and mentally for months, and now it’s over. The early recovery period will likely be the most difficult transition because you won’t be running and will have more time to reflect on your experience. There are several ways you can combat this: 1) Plan to meet up with your running friends the Saturday after the race to discusses personal experiences with the race. 2) Combit to a new goal whether it's another race or even just to keep up with a regular running routine once you recover. 3) Splurge on a treat for yourself, from a new pair of running shoes to that racing watch you’ve been eyeing. Whatever you do, enjoy your downtime and get some much-needed rest.  

Preparing for the Next Race: How long should you rest before training for the next race? While your break time depends on your own level of experience with distance running, it’s recommended that you give your body at least one day off per mile before running your next distance race. This means the earliest you should race again after a marathon is almost a month. Everyone should plan on a reverse taper over the first three to four weeks post-marathon. The first week post-marathon should be mainly rest for three days, with some gentle jogging and cross training to round out the end of the week. By the weekend, most of your muscle soreness should be gone, so a longer distance may be reasonable. Remember to go slow and keep it to an hour at most. 

After the first week post-marathon, you can begin to build more mileage based on your level of experience. Be sure to keep some cross-training days on your schedule to keep your body strong and injury-free. Any persisting soreness or undue fatigue may be your body’s way of telling you it needs more time to recover. Be sure to listen to your body and adjust your training, or see your physician as needed.

How did you feel after the race? What tips would offer to others?

Motivated to Work Out? Planning Your Exercise Routine

Sunday, July 29, 2012 9:16 AM comments (0)

Workout-MotivationHas watching the London games made you eager to start a new exercise routine? While your training schedule probably won’t be as grueling, diving right into a new routine can be difficult. Beginning slow and identifying your workout goals is a great starting point.

Carrie Jaworski, MD, Sports Medicine physician at NorthShore, gives the following tips for starting a new exercise routine:

  • Choose an activity that you enjoy doing. You’ll be more likely to stick to it. This could include walking, cycling, running, swimming, jumping rope, or even playing basketball or soccer with your kids.
  • Find 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week to exercise. Keep in mind that you can break these 30-minute workouts into shorter intervals. Maybe given your schedule it’s easiest for you to work out for 10 minutes in the morning and 20 in the evening. Do what’s best (and most convenient!) for you.
  • Mix it up. Aim to do aerobic exercise three to five times per week and strengthening workouts twice a week.
  • Work to perceived exertion. You should be able to carry on a conversation without feeling winded or out of breath.
  • Prevent injuries. Be sure to properly stretch before and after your workout. If you do get injured, remember P-R-I-C-E: Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

What weekly workout activities do you enjoy most? How do you stick with your routine?

Gearing Up for Endurance Training – Beat the Heat

Friday, June 08, 2012 7:55 AM comments (0)

Endurance TrainingReady, set, go! You registered for the big race and now you’re all set to begin your training routine. Ramping up your endurance can be easy when the temperatures are cool during daytime and nighttime hours. But what do you do about training when the temperature and heat index continue to rise?

While staying on schedule and continuing training is vital to your conditioning and mental preparation, when it’s hot outside it’s important to make some adjustments in your routine to avoid injury, dehydration and fatigue.

Carrie Jaworski, MD, sports medicine physician, offers the following tips for those training for endurance races this summer:

  • Know your sweat rate and start out your workout fully hydrated. Dehydration is one of the biggest problems people face when training in the heat. Being dehydrated by as little as 2% of your weight can significantly hamper your performance and being 3% or more dehydrated puts you at risk for heat illness. An easy method to figuring out your fluid needs is to:
         o    Determine how much sweat you lose with your workouts. This can be
               accomplished by establishing a baseline weight (weigh yourself in
               the morning after going to the bathroom).
         o    Return from your workout and before going to the bathroom, weigh
               yourself again.
         o    Subtract out any fluid you consumed during your run.
         o    Plan to replace about one liter of fluid for every pound you lose.
  • Monitor your urine. Your urine is a quick and easy indicator of hydration status. It is best to always have your urine resemble lemonade, not apple juice. Certain foods and medications can alter your urine color so ask your physician if you are not sure. Don’t overdo your water intake as it can put you at risk for low sodium levels known as hyponatremia. If you are gaining weight post-exercise, or your rings feel tight, you are likely drinking too much.
  • Choose appropriate clothes. Many options exist for keeping cool while training. Look for clothes that are lightweight and light in color. Wicking fabrics will help to keep the skin cool.
  • Wear sunscreen. Apply sunscreen liberally and reapply often, especially if you sweat a lot. Don't neglect the backs of your legs and your neck.
  • Know the signs of heat illness. It is normal to feel tired after a good workout, but extreme fatigue, weakness, a racing heart and/or changes in mental status/alertness can be due to heat illness. The best advice is to prevent this from happening altogether by following the above tips. You can also reschedule workouts during times when the heat index isn’t soaring and slow your pace. If despite your best efforts, things go wrong you should:
         o    Cool off immediately.
         o    Use an ice bath or apply ice bags/cold towels to your armpits, neck
               and groin.
         o    Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms are severe.


Are you currently training for a race or run? What do you do to beat the heat?

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Does the heat put a cramp in your fitness routine? Join experts at NorthShore on Saturday, June 16 from 8a.m. – 12:45p.m. for an educational morning at the Chicago Botanic Garden—complete with a healthy eating demonstration, work-out demonstration and panel discussions on skin care, heart health, and sports injury care and prevention. Space is limited for this free event. Register today for Total Care for the Athlete at Heart.

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