Running can be hard on the body, especially if you’re running for more than an hour.
However, long runs don’t have to take a toll on your body if you take the necessary steps to rest and recover after your run.
Here are my top 5 recovery tips after a long run.
A proper cool down after a run is just as important as a warm up. Whilst the warm up prepares your body and mind for the run ahead, a cool down eases your body back into reality.
The cool down lowers your heart rate and transitions your body back into its pre-exercise state. It also prepares you in the best way possible for your next run.
If you stop abruptly after a run without a cool down, this encourages blood pooling and can cause dizziness.
Firstly, walk briskly for 5-10 minutes after your run. Transition into a light jog and do this for 5-10 minutes more.
Wait 2-6 hours before stretching and foam rolling. More on a stretching routine below.
Stretching is essential following your long run.
Aim to hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and focus on the main muscle groups (e.g. quads, hamstrings, calves, hips) as well as anything that is niggling or felt sore on the run.
While the benefits of stretching post run is debated in the running world, I still believe there are merits to stretching after a run.
If you have a foam roller, it’s also beneficial to roll your sore muscles on the foam roller to alleviate any knots or tightness.
Leave at least 24 hours before you foam roll. If you foam roll too soon after your run, you risk tearing your muscles even more.
You can also consider a relaxing hot bath in the evening after your run. Stick in some Epsom salts and soak in the hot water for a good 10-15 minutes.
This will help with the removal of excess toxins from your muscles. Even better, the bath will help you sleep and ensure you are properly rested before your next run.
Yoga is also great for improving your flexibility as a runner. The ‘Legs Up on the Wall’ pose is great for refreshing circulation – allowing blood that has pooled in your legs to return to your heart.
Hydration is really important after your run, especially if your run was 90 minutes or longer.
The general rule of thumb is to consume 150% of the fluid that you lost during training within the first 10 to 15 minutes after stopping.
I know it’s hard to determine how much sweat you lost during your run, so drink until you quench your thirst then keep sipping on water throughout the day after your run.
Aside from normal tap water, electrolyte drinks like Powerade and Gatorade are a great way to help replace electrolytes lost during your run through sweat.
Sodium and potassium are examples of electrolytes which you lose during a run.
You’ve probably seen the salt stains on your clothes and tasted the salt in your sweat running down your face.
You’re essentially replacing the salt lost through your sweat during your run by drinking electrolyte drinks.
After a long run, you will have depleted the majority of your energy stores.
So it’s really important to eat right following your run (within 20 minutes) to replenish your energy stores and repair any damage to muscle tissue.
The two key macronutrients for any runner are carbohydrates and protein.
Whilst carbohydrates are essential for maintaining and replenishing your energy levels, protein is essential for muscle repair.
You want to be mixing carbs with protein after a run to speed up the recovery process. Aim for a 4 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
Whey and soy protein are both good examples of protein that are rapidly digested by the body.
Protein shakes, for example, offer a good balance of high carbohydrates and high quality protein that you can consume in a convenient way.
Mix protein powder with your favourite smoothie ingredients. Here are some good examples of post-run recovery smoothies for runners.
In terms of food, avoid anything that is high in fibre or fat, such as nuts or chocolate, as these can be slow to digest.
Prioritise carbohydrates and foods with high protein. Some good examples include Greek yoghurt, bananas, peanut butter, eggs, kefir, quinoa, tuna and cottage cheese.
One of the most common mistakes runners make is running too soon after their long run.
Your body has been through a lot. The best way to recover is not to do more damage by going out for a run the next day.
Invest in short, light effort, low impact cross training activities that boost circulation, warm up your muscles and aid in the recovery journey.
Cycling, swimming, walking and yoga are all good examples of cross training.
If all feels well after a few days, run a short, easy effort run (about 30 minutes) to test the waters before going back into another long run.