Good long runs provide perspective - what once seemed far now not only feels possible, but becomes possible! Running fast workouts and nailing long runs is a key part of the training process. And whether you focus on a slow & steady long run, or a race pace long run, it’s important to take proper steps to recovery so your body is prepared for the next workout. So just how do you recover after a long run, you ask? I share a few options below:
Fuel Your Body / Hydrate
Milk? Peanut Butter? Breakfast burrito? Turkey wrap? Yes – chowing down is highly approved here! Your muscles are like thirsty sponges ready to soak up the nutrients! A good rule of thumb is to refuel with a protein/carbohydrate combo within 30 minutes of intense activity. Some common foods include: bagels, bananas, yogurt, crackers, and trail mix. Hydration choices can include sport drinks, smoothies, recovery drink mixes, or chocolate milk.
Gentle Stretching & Massage
Once you are refueled, you can do a light stretching routine. Not much…maybe just a few minutes focused on major muscle groups (i.e., quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips), as well as anything that is sore from the run. If you have a foam roller, you can also use it to alleviate any knots and tightness. Some people prefer to put their feet up, take a nap, and/or get a massage. Although a massage is most likely a “luxury” for most of us…it is an option that needs to be stated. *Hint-Hint* to the partners of dedicated runners…you can gift a massage session!
Yes – that includes willingly putting ice cubes in your bath water! Reason: cold water constricts blood vessels and muscle tissue and prevents blood from pooling in your legs. In other words, “enjoying” an ice bath will help to reduce inflammation on sore joints and muscles. To do this, fill a bath tub with cool water and just hop in! You want to use enough water to cover your legs and hips. Once you are seated, just add ice. I add a few pitchers of ice, while others add up to two 10-pound bags of ice. I also wear a sweatshirt to keep my upper body warm. You can sip a hot cup of tea and listen to some upbeat music to keep your mind off of the fact that you are freezing. Other less-dramatic options include a cold shower directed at the legs or an ice massage with an ice pack or ice cup.
Whether you prefer socks, tights, sleeves, or a straight jacket, compression has been shown to increase blood circulation, improve oxygen delivery to muscles, and relieve muscle cramping.
Legs on Wall
My mother recently reminded of this technique, and I have started using it when I need a really good hamstring stretch. This yoga-like inversion speeds recovery by draining fluids from the legs, stretching the hamstrings, and relieving tired legs and feet. And you only need a quick 10 minutes!
1) Sidle one hip as close as you can to a wall.
2) Swing both legs up the wall and shimmy your rear end as close to the wall as possible. If this hurts your hamstrings, slide a few inches away from the wall. Rest your arms on your belly, or stretch them away from you.
3) When you are done, bend your knees, roll to one side, and rest there, taking a few breaths before getting up.
Epsom Salt Bath
About 60-90 minutes before bed, you can also take a a warm/hot bath in Epsom salts. I use 2 cups of Epsom salt per bath, and relax for 10-20 minutes. Epsom salt is believed to help flush toxins from the cells and reduce inflammation, easing muscle pain. And if you want to enhance your soothing experience, you can get “scented” Epsom salts, such as lavender!
How do you recover after a long run or training session?