Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 24 Oct 2000 09:25:58 -0400

Second-Day Depression

(from RC 327)

Chances are you're reading this on Tuesday, the day of its posting. If your hardest run of the past week was on Sunday, how do you feel today?

Tuesdays are often the worst days for a correspondent named Chris. This concerns him.

Chris is a regular runner and twice-a-year marathoner. He has endured the same set of symptoms -- "fatigue, lethargy, muscle soreness, headache, thirst, anxiety, a desire for sugary or salty foods" -- for the past five years.

"They occur three or four times per month, most often about 48 hours following a particularly difficult run," he writes. "The duration of the symptoms is about 24 hours.

"Only recently have I begun to suspect a linkage to running. When a problem with my achilles prevented my running (but not alternate activity) for about 10 weeks, I did not experience these symptoms at all during this hiatus.

He adds that "I have spoken to my internist, an allergist, and my father and uncle (both retired physicians). I am not much closer to identifying the cause of this ailment."

Chris asks if I know what it might be. I have a pretty good idea because I've experienced some of him symptoms. Most runners have.

Note that they hit the second day after a big effort and stick around for another day before easing. This is the normal way that fatigue and soreness peak and wane after long/hard runs and races.

There's a name for it: delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. The last two letters could also stand for maximum staleness. You want to eat, drink and sleep more than usual, and train less.

My way of dealing with this predictable post-race (or hard training) low is to accept it as a normal aftermath of a big effort. The symptoms are the body and mind's way of protecting themselves. Ease off or rest, knowing the bad feelings will pass on schedule.

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