How to Recover After a Run
I haven’t been a “runner” for very long. I did track in middle school (although I avoided running as much as possible during it, so I’m not sure if that really counts) and I used to force myself to go for “jogs” periodically throughout high school when I got on a “health kick”, but I considered them to be the worst part of my day. It wasn’t until college that I really started enjoying running and making it a daily part of my routine. In April of 2017 I ran my first serious race, a half marathon on the University of Illinois campus. It was amazing! That’s what really got me hooked on running. I’ve been training for the University of Illinois 2018 FULL marathon since December so I’m getting more and more used to adding long runs back into my schedule. When I started training for the half marathon I had no idea what I was doing and I would always end up so sore that I could hardly move and ultimately end up taking a few days of training off. I decided that there had to be a better way of training, and of course there was! I wasn’t giving myself the time and resources needed to let myself recover after a long run. So after doing lots of personal research, I found what I was doing wrong. These are the things that I started implementing and they helped me so much. If you’re wondering how to help yourself recover after going for a run, check out these tips!
1. Drink water!
I like to fill up a water bottle and keep it in the fridge so that the second I walk in the door I have nice cold water to drink. It’s really important to hydrate immediately after running, especially if it’s very warm outside or you’re sweating a lot. A great tip is to weigh yourself before you run and then weigh yourself after. If your weight has decreased it means that you have lost a lot of water. Drink fluids until your weight returns to what it was before your run.
While I’m drinking my water I like to sit down and stretch. I really find that this is one of the best ways to recover after a run. Focus on opening your hips and stretching your hamstrings, but really focus on stretching your entire lower half. As annoying as it is while you’re stretching, it will be super worth it the next day when you are able to stand. (I speak from experience…)
3. Foam roll
I talk about the importance of foam rolling in my article about avoiding shin splints, but it really is one of the most important things to do to recover after a run. Foam rolling is not fun. It hurts, it’s hard to hold yourself up, it’s not a good time. But the difference I feel when I foam roll compared to when I don’t is unbelievable.
4. Take an Ice Bath
This is my least favorite thing on this entire list. As someone who absolutely despises being cold, it’s nearly impossible to get myself to submerge my lower half in a freezing cold tub of water (ESPECIALLY in the winter!!!!). If you can’t bring yourself to use ice cubes in the tub, just fill it with the coldest water that comes out of the faucet. Fill it high enough to cover your lower half and submerge yourself in it. The best results will come if you let yourself stay in it for about 10 minutes but do whatever you can, especially when you’re first trying it. If you can only handle 5 minutes, try working your way up to 10 eventually. For an extra challenge wiggle your legs every few minutes to make sure that the cold water stays circulating. Don’t worry, once your legs go numb it’s much more manageable.
5. Wear Compression Socks
Compression socks are another thing I had on my post about shin splints but they are so so helpful. They keep the blood flowing in your legs and prevent lactic acid build up. Before I got my compression socks I would be in so much pain the day after a long run. I would dread even getting out of bed because I knew as soon as my feet hit the floor I’d be in pain. Since I got my compression socks I don’t worry about that anymore! These things are seriously a life saver.
6. Elevate your Legs
While you’re sitting and watching TV, prop your legs up!
7. Take a Warm Bath with Epsom Salts
Epsom salts are a runner’s best friend. Actually, there’s a lot of things that are a runner’s best friend, but this is definitely up there. You don’t want to take a warm bath TOO soon after an ice bath (give yourself a few solid hours or better yet, do it the next morning), but taking a warm bath with epsom salts can really help tight muscles relax.
8. Give Yourself Protein
It is incredibly important to give yourself protein after a run! Some people may do this by eating a meal after they run, but I usually find that I’m not very hungry immediately after a run (I get absolutely ravenous a few hours after, but that’s a different story). If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know I’m absolutely OBSESSED with green smoothies and I always add in extra plant-based protein powder. After a run I find that this is the best way for me to get my protein in, but if you’re hungry make sure you eat a meal that has a solid amount of protein so you can rebuild those muscles!
9. Drink BCAAs
BCAA’s, or Branched Chain Amino Acids are supplements that can help with regenerating muscle cells, which can mean you recover quicker and feel less pain in your legs! When you run you create micro-tears in your muscles and BCAA’s can help with rebuilding (in addition to lots of other benefits, like giving you energy!).
These are the ways that I like to recover after a run! I find that these things help me recover faster, prepare myself for my next run, and elevate some of the pain I used to feel after I would go for a long run. What things do you do after your runs? Will you be trying any of these?