Taking time to recover after and between long runs is just as important as warming up before you exercise. Long runs often leave your muscles feeling sore. But if you treat yourself well, you can speed up the recovery process and get back to running in no time. Taking the time to recover is important, because it prevents running-related injuries and can increase your performance.
Here are some tips to help feel great after your runs.
Stretch your muscles
Stretching after exercise is actually more beneficial than stretching before exercise. If you don’t take the time to stretch after a run, your muscles tighten up and you’re at risk for soreness and injuries. Take a few minutes to cool down after your run and then do gentle stretches that focus on your major muscle groups. Another way to stretch after a run is by rolling out over a foam roller. Foam rollers can help get rid of knots and tightness. If you’ve run for over 90 minutes, you should also spend about 10 to 15 minutes walking before stretching.
Take an ice bath
Some say to soak in a hot tub, others say to soak in a cold tub. The truth is that hot baths are better before runs because the water can warm tight muscles. Taking a cold bath after a run can reduce inflammation and numb your muscles.
To take an ice bath, fill your tub with cold water and add ice. Allow the ice to melt before completely submerging your legs in the water. Allow your legs to soak for 10-15 minutes. This can be a very cold process and might not feel great while you’re doing it, but your muscles will thank you later. After soaking your legs, you can take a normal shower to help yourself warm back up. If you can’t stand the idea of getting in a cold tub, you can instead use ice packs on any areas that are feeling sore.
Drinking water before and after your workout is absolutely necessary so that you can avoid dehydration. Drinking plain water after running helps regulate your blood temperature, helps your blood pressure, and can prevent cramping. If you were running for longer than 90 minutes, you’ll also want to drink an electrolyte solution to help replace your glycogen.
Refuel with food
After you have stretched and hydrated, you’re going to want to focus on getting some nutritious food that is full of protein. It is okay to grab a quick snack such as granola or a protein bar, but you’ll want to get a few meals in as well. A green salad with lots of veggies that has been topped with grilled chicken is a great way to get some much needed nutrients. If you’re feeling nauseous after a run, don’t force solid foods right away. Instead, drink something like nonfat chocolate milk or a protein shake.
Treat your feet well
It is not just your legs that will be sore after a long run, but your feet as well. Replace your running shoes regularly. A good pair of running shoes will have the right arch, feel firm, and have some wiggle room in the toes. Your feet often swell while you’re running and shoes without enough wiggle room will cause your feet to blister.
You may also need to invest in a pair of recovery sandals so that you can pamper your feet. Recovery sandals and slides are heavily cushioned to offer arch support after a run. There are many different styles of recovery sandals to choose from. Click here for a list of the best recovery sandals.
Get enough sleep
After you’ve stretched, rehydrated, and gotten some food in your stomach, it is time to prioritize sleep. During deep sleep, your body releases hormones that aid in cell repair and cell growth. This is necessary for physical and emotional restoration. After a good night’s sleep, you’ll also want to take a few rest days so that your body has time to relax and recover. Instead of exercising or running in the days following a long run, take a few extra naps.
If you love running, but often feel fatigued and sore after a long run, it is time to start taking better care of your body. Giving yourself time to recover between runs is necessary, because it gives your body time to recover and prepares you for your next run. Don’t feel guilty about pampering yourself!