You know you’re a runner (or someone who spends way too much time on his/her feet) when you wake up in the morning, step out of bed, and wonder why your feet/legs/knees don’t creak, mumble, or moan. That’s because as a runner, you’re probably used to putting serious stress on your lower appendages (funny how the activity that we sometimes do to relieve stress causes a heck of a lot of it… about 2-3 Gs for at least 100 ms every second of a run; read the physics of it here). This kind of stress repeated daily throughout weeks and months will likely result in a build-up of issues that can no longer be recovered in an evening of rest like they used to (or can be expected from Wolverine).
Therefore, waking up with, for example, sore feet, sore knees, knees that creak going up and down the stairs…at least for the first ten minutes in the morning, becomes a fairly common recurrence.
What causes morning soreness?:
These symptoms are obviously caused by things like hard workouts, raising the number of pounds in the gym, shoes that no longer provide the same kind of support that you need due to extensive mileage, the onset of an injury that you should keep tabs on and perhaps research/look for advice in a more credible source, tripping over the coffee table in the middle of the night, that sort of thing. But there are some other causes as well that can be regulated and the regulation of can these other causes can help mitigate the amount of soreness felt the following morning.
How to prevent morning soreness:
Stop running. :-)
Shoes/surface- Make sure the shoes you run in and the surface you run on are appropriate for your training and the state of effort you are putting in. Sometimes when shoes have been exposed to too much heat or have too many miles on them, they lose the support they’re supposed to give.
Avoid running in heat and humidity/use ice baths- this one will be surprising to some of you who live further north and think 75 degrees F is warm to run in. As someone who knows 90 degrees is manageable, I also know that nature can serve as a natural ice pack. When running in cooler temperature, the healing effects of ice and cold water baths can occur while running and also help relieve pain. That’s why, while running when it’s cold can be miserable and comes with its own set of problems, at least terrible soreness won’t be one of them. If/when you run in warmer temps, try to take an ice bath and/or use ice packs shortly after your run… within an hour or so.
Epsom salts- I don’t use these myself, but I’ve heard they are pretty good to smoke (just kidding), I mean, soak in.
Foam rolling and massage- I’ve been slacking on this myself lately (probably why I woke up sore this morning and felt inspired to write this post), but taking the time to roll out the muscles in the evening before going to sleep can really help clear out lactic acid or whatever (not sure about the science behind this) and does effect how you’ll feel in the morning.
Sleep- make sure you get enough sleep before and after the day of a long run. The sleep beforehand helps ensure that you’re recovered from recent workouts and the sleep afterwards helps recover. Every person is different, so people need different amounts of sleep depending also on their activity level, age, and genes. However, everyone needs to sleep more than the four hours that some people get.
Eat- a little bit of carbs before a run don’t hurt, but it’s important to give your body the fuel for recovery too. I don’t eat sugar, so I can’t use the standard post-workout pre-made smoothies, but I do try to make sure I get in some fruit and some protein (maybe peanut butter, popcorn, sliced ham) within 45 minutes of the end of my run. I’ve found that I’m hungry after a run anyway, but even on the rare occasion I’m not, a forced bite to eat helps prevent the fatigue and soreness later on and the next day.
Drink- Of course, runners tend to make sure they drink enough throughout the day to have something to sweat out in their workout, but it’s very important to have those H2O molecules replaced after the run. I think (again, not sure about the science of this) that the water helps clear out the muscles and replace used water, but it definitely helps in the recovery process.
I’m sure there are other tips (and you can comment below, to share!) but these are mine for now.
Conclusion to sore mornings
Oh, unless you experience this yourself, you may think that people who experience morning soreness must be injured, and while these people are likely to develop an injury soon, most of us don’t plan on developing an injury anytime soon. Consider people who weight lift, or how you feel after an intense interval session… the body is pushed beyond limits, and these ruptures in the limits need to be healed. When the healing takes longer than the 8 hours of sleep (quick plug: make sure you get at least 8-9 hours of sleep!!), obviously the pain is going to be there. Those of us in a bit of pain every morning are just stuck in a training cycle and can look forward to pain free mornings only when that cycle is over.
So, lately I’ve been in a training cycle that made me wince this morning when I got out of bed. I think I mentioned before that I saved my training plans from college cross country, and it basically prepared me to almost break my PR last fall. I still think I have it in me to break 21 minutes AND 20 minutes (and 19… but let’s just dream about that for now), and so I am training as well as I can, when I can. Right now, the plan calls for five and half hours of training a week, so it’s not too demanding on top of my studying for MA exams, but the intensity of the workouts is definitely more than I’ve needed for marathon training. I get most of my runs done in the morning, have a day of tempo intervals with doubles in the afternoon, an easy run, a day of short/fast intervals with a double in the afternoon, two easy days, and then a long-ish run of 70-80 minutes. It’s harder than marathon training, and yet somehow I prefer two weekly sessions of intervals and temps (for example 5 x 5 min. @ 7 mpm) over a long three hour run.
This week, my rest day was on Monday. I didn’t go for a bike ride after all; as the day went on, I decided to just take it easy. Why workout on the one day when the calendar gods don’t ask anything of you, right?
Tuesday, I had four intervals of 6 minutes at tempo/race pace. I did these in the morning and fasted, which was rough, but while I was a bit slower on the last two intervals, I was running outside in 90 degrees at 87% humidity, so I know that, by having put in effort, I was fulfilling the purpose of the run. No doubles this week because it’s a recovery week (wee!!)
Wednesday: an easy run of 45 minutes. It was in the afternoon though, after a day of vigorous house cleaning, so something went wonky in my sleep cycle and I didn’t fall asleep until 4 in the morning :/ Completing my intervals Thursday on such little sleep would explain why I was sore on Friday.
Thursday: after a tired warm-up of 20 minutes during which I was trying to convince myself to run for an hour, much less complete the scheduled interval workout, I managed some drills and strides and felt ready to go. I did ten times 2 min.s at 8.3 mph and faster. My ninth interval was for 9.3 mph, and the final one maxed at 10 mph. The recoveries were 1 minute at 6.1 mph… and I noticed that I was actually able to do the recovery runs (without jogging) because I was consistent about starting off slow at the start of each interval spurt. I’m getting stronger! So ya.
Friday (today): An easy run of 30 minutes preceded by a rigorous bike ride. A post on the benefits of cross training later!
Hope you all have a good weekend!