Since I started running regularly nothing makes me more mad than missing a workout. I might miss a session or two due to work or family commitments, but sometimes I get an unfortunate injury. These are part of life as a runner, but what I find very hard to accept is having a bad workout due to muscle soreness or fatigue. This is a result of inadequate recovery techniques and can be dealt with easily. I decided to dive in and search the internet for the best running recovery tips known to mankind.
I never thought that there were so many ways to speed up the recovery process. From better running technique to better eating, or using foam rollers, there are countless ways one can get back to one’s best quicker.
By using and efficient running technique, you can significantly reduce the load on your body, which will in turn require less recovery.
Here is a short video, that explains how to run efficiently. The video takes into account the following points:
The Balanced Runner has an excellent post on the correct running technique, and how you can find yours.
Since this is a website about compression wearables, it should not come as a surprise that they are featured on this list. Studies have demonstrated that wearing compression socks during exercise speeds up the recovery process. Even wearing them after a workout helps the muscles push out the lactate and other waste materials in order to get rid of muscle soreness.
But how do they work? Compression socks put pressure on the veins, thus reducing their diameter. This helps the blood flow quicker, washing out the waste materials from the muscles. The blood flows from the legs to the heart quicker, thus it also flows through the stomach, lungs and other organs quicker. This way the deoxygenated blood lacking in nutrients gets replenished quicker. This way the muscles get the necessary nutrients for recovery sooner.
If you want to read more abut this process, or how to choose the best compression socks for your needs, check out this article here about running recovery socks.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but eating the right types of food and eating them regularly is a key component of recovery. Maintaining a healthy diet lets your body work at optimal levels, while letting it recover quickly after a workout.
Amanda Brooks has an excellent post on her website Run to the Finish, with an anti-inflammatory food chart. It details a diet that promotes great heart, while helping with joint and muscle recovery. After the chart, you can find thirty delicious recipes that will help your recovery.
Here are some recommended foods:
Here is a great running recovery smoothie recipe:
If that is not enough, FlyFeet Running has an excellent smoothie recipe that I love. There is nothing better, than arriving home after a long run, and hitting the blender! Eggs, blueberries, bananas and coconut water…anyone?
There is a common recovery drink that runners recommend: chocolate milk. But is it useful, or a fad? Emily Brown has some interesting points about this on Runners Connect.
As she writes, chocolate milk aficionados swear that it is a great recovery drink, because:
But are these claims true? One study compared the recovery affects of chocolate milk to a fluid replacement drink and a carbohydrate replacement drink. The study found that chocolate milk outperformed these drinks in some aspects of recovery. If you want to read more about the study design, visit the post on Runners Connect.
Competitive runners have a reputation of refraining from all the fun stuff in life. We are not like that at all! Take for example the ritual of post marathon burgers and beers. Go to the Crazy Running Girl blog to see how it’s done in style!
As you are reading this, you are probably shouting at your screen: But beers dehydrate you even more after a long race! I agree, they are probably not the best for your physiology, but hey…they feel so good and you deserve a little bit of a treat after a marathon.
Sleep is a crucial part of running recovery, that we tend to neglect. After all most of us are not professional runners, we have a busy schedule to maintain: work, family an friends. Most of us decide to chop off a few hours from our sleep schedule, which is a big mistake.
Most runners feel, that when training gets heavier, or after a long race they will feel the urge to sleep more. This is totally normal, the body has to make up for the strain of exercising.
During your sleep, your body produces growth hormones in order for the muscles to recover. It also lowers cortisol levels.
There is a huge difference between sleeping just six hours, or having a full eight hours of sleep.
Here are some tips to help you sleep better:
Scott Dunlap recommends on his blog a whole process on race days that will make your recovery quicker. The process consists of three steps: warming up, cooling down, and some nutrient intake within 15 minutes after the race ends. This does not seem like rocket science, but how many times did you go easy on the warmup, or missed the cooling down, because you have just finished the workout, and “Missing it just this one time won’t do any harm!”? Exactly.
Do your warmup properly. Warm up gradually, starting with light exercise and then slowly building it up. For most workouts a 15 minute warmup should suffice. Scott estimates, that skipping warmup could add 12-24 hours to your recovery time.
At the end of the workout don’t just stop. Slow down to a jogging tempo, then walk for a few minutes.
It is essential to take in some easily digestible carbs – bananas are excellent – and some water after you stop. This is the ideal time to have your chocolate milk. The body is looking for nutrients to repair the muscles and fill up the energy storages. Fluids are essential for maintaining proper blood circulation. Get these in your body as soon as possible, preferably fifteen minutes after ending the race.
A well thought-out training plan will have easy and hard days, to allow for recovery and a tapering effect. This is crucial, if the body does not have time to heal itself, the hard workouts of the training cycle will be useless.
Some people make the fatal mistake of having two demanding workouts on the easy days of their schedule, thus making it a hard day. Steve Wagner makes the point on the Addicted to Running blog that if you must put in two workouts a day, put the second workout on a hard day. This way you are not screwing up the recovery days.
The age old question is: Should you run after a long race during your recovery week? Sara at the Running Wife blog has an excellent insight into how her recovery week activity profile and that of her husband differs.
The week after running a marathon Sara does not run. On the other hand his husband runs the very next day.
Sara goes into more detail about what kind of activities she does the week after the race. She goes spinning, or goes for a walk. Spinning uses different muscles than running, but both walking and spinning help push the soreness out of your muscles.
Jenny is a marathon runner and a busy mom. She advises runners to get either a massage or visit their chiropractor once every ten days. This kind of external work on the muscles helps muscle recovery, but also increases the range of motion of the joints, not to mention that it improves connective tissue healing.
After races you don’t need to visit the masseur straight away, you can refresh your muscles with the use of foam rollers. This is an important step in the half marathon recovery for blogger and runner Kelly Calazzo.
Do you often feel stiffness in your leg muscles? Using foam rollers is an excellent way to massage your legs and soften up the tissue.
Here is a video about how to use foam rollers for leg recovery:
This might be a bit too out there for some people, but studies have found that visualising the recovery process in detail can speed it up. Only Atoms writes about this phenomena in their list of running recovery tips.
Are you sceptical? Maybe you should give visualisation a chance. After all visualisation is a common practice for athletes. If it can help you run a better marathon, or win soccer matches, why couldn’t it help you recover quicker?
How should you visualise? Sit down in a quiet place, and think about your recovery in as much detail as possible. What are you wearing? How does it feel when your muscles are building themselves up again? What does feeling the lactate washing out of your muscles feel like?
I have found an excellent video on The Run Experience Youtube channel. The video recommends putting your feet up parallel to a wall while you are laying on your back to encourage better circulation, and let the blood wash through your leg muscles. You can check out the video below:
If you are still hungry for new information on recovery, the Running Vegan NYC podcast dedicated a whole episode to running recovery tips and tricks.
As you see, there are countless ways to recover from a long run. I don’t use all of these techniques, but I regularly wear my compression socks, drink a smoothie after running and always make sure to sleep at least eight hours per night. Sometimes I get to use foam rollers after my workout. No matter which of these running recovery tips you use, you are guaranteed to get back to your best quicker.
Do you have a favourite recovery tip? Share it in the comments!