While running is great for your health, how you recover after a run makes all the difference.
The truth is, what you do after your run will enable you to get the most from your run but also prepare you correctly for your next run so you can get out there and perform at your best. One of the mistakes athletes from all disciplines make is overtraining, fatiguing themselves and/or causing injuries.
If you focus on recovery correctly after a run, you're much more likely to prevent injury and enhance your performance.
Consider Nutrition and Hydration
Soreness and aches are all part of running and exercise but eating right and hydrating can help to reduce soreness and speed up recovery. Primarily, this comes in the form of complex carbohydrates and protein. Together, these nutrients repair and rebuild muscles and you should focus on getting a ratio of 3:1 in the form of complex carbs to protein within 30 minutes of completing your run. The carbohydrates will help you replenish your muscles glycogen stores (and prevent your body burning muscle for energy) and the additional protein will help get the muscle recovery stage underway.
Preparing your snack before you run can help you to stay organised and on track, ensuring that you don’t reach for the wrong snacks.
We'd recommend our own snacks (for good reason!). Our flapjacks are perfect post-run. Packed with nutritious oats and 17g of protein for slow release energy and recovery.
Or - find out why runners should get more oats into their diet (and everyone else for that matter!)
You could opt to eat whole-grain crackers with an apple and some cheese while a plain bagel with peanut butter can work. If you want something simple, then a protein bar will help you to get the protein you need. The aim is to repair the muscles, providing them with the amino acids that are the building blocks of the body.
Along with this, you should also drink plenty of fluids, mainly water, as this will help to regulate blood pressure and body temperature while transporting energy and nutrients throughout the body. If the time you spent running is less than 90 minutes then water is fine, however, if you do run for longer than 90 minutes then you will need to drink a sports drink with electrolytes to help replenish fluids, salts and glycogen in the muscles.
Stretch After Running
Everyone forgets to do this! Remember thinking your P.E. teacher was wasting your time back in school? Now that you're not 15 anymore you probably feel it a bit more after a run!
While it is important to loosen up before running it is equally as important to stretch after it. While the muscles are still warm and flexible, you should aim to stretch, spending around 15 to 30 seconds per stretch. Don’t be too vigorous with the stretches, especially if you have run for longer than 90 minutes.
Stretching helps massage the muscles, increase flexibility and reduce muscle discomfort.
In fact, you can also benefit from a walk after running as this will help to ease the muscles and remove unwanted products from the muscles that can lead to stiffness and soreness.
Have an Ice Bath
After running long distances, the muscles will be damaged and inflamed and so, having an ice bath will help to ease inflammation. The idea of getting into an ice-cold bath might not appeal and so, you can leave your clothes on if you wish. If an ice bath is too much, then make use of ice packs on those areas that are prone to soreness.
Try Different Activities
Overworking the muscles can lead to injury and that can happen if you spend a lot of time running. Therefore, undertaking a different kind of exercise such as cross-training can help to give the muscles a break. Rest is as important as being active and so, on those days when you need to recover, you could try cycling or swimming as these are low-impact exercises. Even a short walk can make a difference and it will keep your muscles and joints mobile.
If you are someone who runs for fun, then three to four days of running per week can be paired up with a couple of days cross-training. For competitive runners who run four to six times per week, they should opt for a low-intensity exercise that will give their body a rest but will still enable them to keep their fitness levels up. Many runners will experience and injury but they might want to keep training. The aim here is to ensure you don’t overwork the injured muscle or joint. Cross-training can help runners to maintain their fitness levels while still allowing them to keep active.
Book a Massage
Massage is not just about relaxation because it is also a very effective way to reduce tension and soreness in the muscles. What’s more, it can also enhance range of motion and prevent injury. Research has been carried out into the effectiveness of massage and it can make a difference to your recovery.
Perhaps you are someone who doesn’t feel comfortable having a massage or you simply cannot afford it. If this is the case then you could invest in a foam roller. This is an effective way of achieving similar results to that of a massage without leaving the house.
You should position the roller under muscles and you should not roll over bone or joints. Then you should work from the centre of the body and work outwards, rolling over each area several times until the muscles relax. However, it is worth bearing in mind that it can be painful at first but it does ease.
Get Enough Sleep
After you have been on a long run or have taken part ina race, your body will benefit from more sleep. Your body needs time to relax and repair and sleep is the perfect opportunity for this. You should aim to get eight hours each night and not just after you have been for a run. As a result, even on days when you have not been for a run, you should still get into the habit of going to bed and getting up at the right time, ensuring you get a minimum of eight hours sleep.
For those who run competitively then they can benefit from more sleep as it has been found that those who sleep for 9 hours will see an improvement in their running times.
There is no doubt that running, whether competitive or recreational, is a great way to stay fit and healthy. However, the body undergoes several stresses when running and the muscles become damaged and inflamed. Therefore, it makes it important that you recover in the right way so you prevent injury and can prepare yourself for your next running session.