How to Get the Most Out of Your Recovery
How you finish a run and the steps you take in the hours afterward are as important as how you start. Hard runs, especially, require that you show your body special attention. If not, a runner’s high can turn into a runner’s nightmare when soreness sets in – making it uncomfortable to even get out of bed the next day.
It is common knowledge that after strenuous activity, warm Epsom salt baths can help soothe overtaxed muscles. However, many people don’t realize that nutrition, stretching, rolling out, and even sleep can also aid in recovery. We’ll discuss these tools for recovery below.
Nutrition plays a more important role in recovery than most people realize. When you run hard, sweat removes water, sodium, and electrolytes. So, it is crucial to stay hydrated and replenish as soon as possible post-run with liquids like coconut water or Gatorade that contain electrolytes.
Furthermore, shortly after a run but within twenty minutes, eat a nutritious meal that contains good carbohydrates and protein (ideally a 4 to 1 ratio). The protein will help repair stressed tissue and build muscle; the carbohydrates will help restore glycogen levels that tend to lower during physical activity. Examples of foods great for recovery are:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Whole Grains
Running uses some of the largest and hardest-working muscles in your body: calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, and hip flexors. By stretching these major muscle groups and any area that feels tight or sore, you can prevent stiffness and promote healthy blood flow to these important muscles.
Though most people know that stretching before runs is beneficial, fewer realize the benefits of post-run stretching. To gain the most benefit from stretching, do not wait; stretch immediately after running while your muscles remain warm. Static stretches (stretches held for up to 45 seconds) are known to be most helpful in alleviating soreness and ensuring muscles stay limber. Some good examples of post-run static stretches include:
- Hamstring Stretch*
- Quad Stretch
- Calf Stretch
- Hip flexor Stretch
- Thigh Stretch
- Lower Back Stretch
*Leg drains (resting feet up at a 90-degree angle) can also provide some hamstring stretch and help reduce swelling (via lymphatic drainage), and promote blood circulation.
Sometimes stretching just isn’t enough, and nagging soreness and problem areas continue. To further release tension in problem areas, do a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique known as foam rolling. Using a foam roller (a cylindrical self-massage tool) can help work out knots and increase flexibility. Roll out and release. 🙂
After a hard run, take a nap if possible, and get plenty of sleep when you can. The body repairs itself during sleep and releases growth hormone, essential for muscle growth and repair.
The above information provides various ways to enhance recovery and care for your body after robust physical activity like running. Keep the tips in mind and use them to feel as good as possible before, during, and after runs!