The Science of Runners’ Sore Legs article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal focused on long-distance runners, why we get sore legs and ways to delay and alleviate leg soreness while running. I experienced this first-hand during the Richmond Marathon last November when around mile 18, all I wanted to do was sit down and rest my legs. I slowed down thinking I was helping the situation, although, according to this article, slowing down doesn’t help relieve any leg pain.
So what should I have done to help deal with the pain while running? First of all, I probably should have incorporated some more strength training into my marathon training regimen. Dr. Metzl, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in NY, in this article recommends “quick, explosive repetitions” including squats, planks, push-ups and leg lifts. I immediately thought of P90X3, which really focuses on plyometrics-style exercises that use one’s own body weight. I’m currently trying to incorporate more of these leg-exhausting moves and will be sure to add them into any future marathon-training schedule. Adding in these exercises won’t necessarily prevent legs from getting sore during a long race, but will help delay the soreness.
Maybe you didn’t do enough squats during your training and now you have a big race coming up in a few weeks. Well, grab some pickle juice or tart cherry juice! Although sports drinks dominate race beverage options, these non-traditional drinks may be just what your body needs. When you are dehydrated, your muscles don’t contract as well, leading to soreness and pain. In addition, your muscles need electrolytes to conduct electrical impulses, enabling muscle cells to contract. Sports drinks like nuun (my favorite!) and G2 have electrolytes but pickle juice has “about as much concentrated sodium as any liquid on the planet that athletes have been able to stomach during intense exercise.”
After some quick Googling, I found a Pickle Juice Sports Drink available at H-E-B grocery stores in Texas! According to the website, this Pickle Juice Sport has 15X more electrolytes than Powerade and zero calories. Pickle Juice Sport is recommended to drink before and during exercise to prevent muscle cramps and dehydration.
Before, during and after the Richmond Marathon, I took ibuprofen but perhaps I should have been drinking tart cherry juice. Ibuprofen is pretty rough on one’s stomach and I definitely felt it afterwards (partly due to my sensitivity because of IBS). According to recent studies, tart cherry juice can offer many of the same benefits as NSAIDs without the side effects. Those that drank tart cherry juice before, during and after long-distance running experienced less pain and soreness. Because tart cherry juice is packed with antioxidants, it reduces inflammation from the inevitable muscle tears.
Lastly, the article talks about the power of positive thinking when running long-distances. Although your legs might be sore, you can push through that final leg by thinking optimistically, while negative thinking will just drag you down. This is easier said than done but worth working on because your mind-set can really affect your performance.
So, according to this article, to combat sore legs: strength train during training, drink pickle juice and tart cherry juice, and think positively!