What Your Muscles Look Like AFTER a Marathon?

The San Antonio Rock-n-Roll Marathon/Half Marathon was this past Sunday. I had the pleasure of having some athletes doing the half marathon and was able to cheer them on despite the weather (raining and humid!). It was great to see a lot of athletes out on the course, whether they were doing the full or the half. San Antonio has really grown into a running community which makes me happy, running is my JAM!

Last year after the SAT Rock-n-Roll Marathon, on Facebook, I posted about what your muscles will look like after doing a marathon. Here is the thing, I am not talking about what you look like from the outside, we are chatting about what is happening to the muscles on the inside. Let’s discuss…

Remember the commercial: “This is your brain. (Showing the egg.) This is your brain on drugs? (Egg in a frying pan).”

Now, look at these photos:  “These are your muscles. These are your muscles AFTER a marathon”

Let me explain and I am going to get scientific and geeky on ya!
Muscle soreness happens when the body goes through an exhaustive or very high intensity exercise. You will see this a ton when you get back into the gym from lifting after you been away for a few months (Trying to sit down on the toilet…ouch?) or doing a marathon or an Ironman Triathlon. Athletes can deal with acute muscle soreness or DOMS, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. As triathletes and runners, we will see the DOMS, quite a bit after a longer event, such as the marathon and the Ironman Triathlon.
It has been shown that DOMS results primarily from eccentric (lengthening) action and it is associated with actual muscle damage. The muscular damage that we are chatting about it the muscle sarcomere (Actin (thin filaments) and myosin (thick filaments)) and Z-Disks.
Look at the Pre Marathon Photo:
In between the Z-Disk is a sarcomere. The sarcomere has two protein filaments (actin and myosin) which will slide past each other when a muscle contracts or relaxes. The Z-Disks defines the boundaries of a muscle sarcomere. In this photo, you will see how “clean” the Z-Disks are.
Look at the Post Marathon Photo:
When we run, the sarcomere filaments (actin/myosin filaments) help us by shortening (concentric) and lengthening (eccentric) the whole muscle. After 26.2 miles and HOW MANY steps that you took in that marathon, even that half marathon, your sarcomere filaments AND your Z-disks are TRASHED.
Why do I bring this up with you all? How many of you head out for an “easy” run a couple days after a race, or start lifting right away? How many of you raised your hands? Yes, that is what I thought.
As a triathlon coach, I ASK  you, PLEASE give your muscles a break, as you caused a #shitton of structure damage to your muscles. Here is what I would suggest if I was your coach after you did a BIG event:
  • Ran an Ironman Triathlon – Wait for 14 days to run
  • Ran a Marathon – Wait for 14 days to run
  • Ran a Half Marathon – Wait at least 7 days to run
  • Ran an Ironman 70.3 Triathlon – Wait at least 7 days to run
Just an FYI: it can take up to 4 – 6 weeks for the body to heal after a marathon and about 2 – 4 weeks for the body to heal after a half. Remember, you are NOT going to lose fitness. Truth be told, if you start back up to soon, you may get injured, sick or truthfully just burned out.
Any questions? Ask away….
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