As we exercise, we are actually tearing tiny muscle fibers. Then, over the next 24-48 hours, our body repairs these fibers and protects us by making them thicker than they originally were. This explains why muscles get bigger and stronger. Researchers have shown us that there can also be cell damage to the muscles. This damage is not permanent; however, as muscle tissue is capable of regenerating itself.

Rest is one of the most important essentials in recovering from any endurance event — whether it is football, baseball, tennis, soccer, walking or running a marathon. Many athletes do not allow enough rest time in their schedules. When the body is pushed to its limit, something will inevitably break down. This breakdown can be in the form of injury to a body part or to the body’s resistance, opening up an avenue to influenza.

If the endurance event is a marathon, it is very important to get out the day after. The best time is in the afternoon when you have had a chance to loosen up a bit by walking around, preferably on soft surfaces. This will relieve the soreness and speed up the rate of recovery over the next few days.

Blood circulation is the key to staying loose. Any activity that aids blood circulation will help in your recovery. In a few cases, we suggest easy running. If that is difficult, try bicycle riding or swimming, where the body weight changes as it becomes more buoyant. After a week, the muscle soreness may disappear and fool you into thinking that you are ready to start training again. The stresses from an endurance event, however, are still there even a few weeks later.

It is also of major importance to restore body fluids, especially if the event was in extreme heat or humidity. The athlete should drink plenty of liquids during the 48 hours that follow the event. For a long-range recovery program, the athlete needs body building nutrients, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss, a sports podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials. Weiss is a veteran of 35 marathons & has a practice in Darien; affiliated with Stamford Hospital and member of Stamford Health Medical Group-Foot & Ankle. For info visit his Web site at www.stamford

healthmedicalgroup.org, and find a Physician-Dr. Robert F. Weiss