Before we get into this week’s topic, post-run recovery, some of you may be questioning your sanity about now: Why did I decide it was a good idea to train for this race? If so, here’s a nice reminder of all the good you are doing for your body:
Now moving along: Recovery is an essential part of your ability to train without injury. Your body needs the time and tools to heal from the stress inflicted by our long runs. These tips and tried & tested tools to aid your recovery:
Eat something, soon. Your muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (stored glucose) stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. Eating some carbs and protein (aim for a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein) soon after you run can help minimize muscle stiffness and soreness. Chocolate milk or non-dairy lattes or smoothies are good options if your stomach isn’t ready for solid food immediately after your run.
Up your fluid intake, all day. Ideally, you would weigh yourself before and after the run, then drink another 16 ounces of water for every pound you lost. In reality, just try to keep your fluid intake up all day long, and be sure to throw in some electrolytes to keep your levels in balance. Here’s a great quote from Runners World that explains:
"Everybody gets bored with hydration, like, 'Yeah, yeah, I've heard it, give me something new.' But your muscles were meant to be bathed in water, in fluid. There should be no resistance in their movement. Dehydration is the biggest wrench you can throw into that system, because if the muscles aren't free-floating, lubricated, they start to adhere to each other, and then it's a tug of war, and the movement that should be effortless is suddenly a struggle due to dehydration and byproducts.”
Keep moving. The best thing you can do is keep moving after your run. Clean your house, window shop at Southpoint, head to the outlets, take your dog for a walk. Gentle walking and activity will speed the recovery process.
Compress. Compression socks are a go-to tool for many distance runners. Wearing them after your run will increase blood flow to your legs, speeding your muscle recovery. Ask any of us who wear compression, and we will rave about the impact it has. (Compression socks are particularly helpful if you’re going to be flying after your half or full marathon!)
Massage. Foam roll, get a massage, or do some gentle stretches later in the day, a few hours after your long run. If you need to stretch immediately after your run (sometimes you need to!), keep the stretches gentle and don’t strain your muscles, which can cause longer-term injury. Self-massage (our topic a few weeks ago) is a great way to go here.
Soak. Ice baths shortly after your run may hurt (in a hurts-so-good kind of way), but they also are great tools to reduce inflammation. If you can’t handle a full ice bath, use ice packs on any acute sore spots. Here's info on how to make an ice bath. A real treat is a warm epsom salt bath: Take one 60-90 minutes before you go to bed. The salts also help to increase circulation and purportedly help to flush toxins from your muscles. (The package usually recommends how much to add, but it should be at least a cup of salts.)
Sleep. Take an afternoon nap if you need to, but definitely focus on getting a good night’s sleep after your run. Sleep does wonders for recovery!