10 Tips for Post-Run/Race Recovery - Less is More
Spending time and effort on recovery is just as important as all the strength and conditioning you are doing.
Recovering properly can make the difference between being able to race or not being able to run at all. Whether you are aiming for a Personal Best (PB); a podium place; or just for that feeling of satisfaction and achievement, it takes real dedication to go easy and recover properly rather than pushing yourself hard, day after day.
Recovery is very personal, there isn’t a one size fits all approach but here are some strategies that might help:
1. Always listen
Listen to your body, there is a difference between squeezing a bit more out of a tough session and pushing past pain and discomfort. Even if you are a professional athlete you need to be conscious that ignoring ‘a little niggle’ could turn into a full-blown injury. Is it really worth it?
Lengthening out your muscles after a run is important to help maintain flexibility and mobility as well as to flush any lactic acid out of your system. You’ve got a choice: dynamic stretches work well soon after your workout, while static stretches and foam rolling lengthen the muscles and can be relaxing. Target your major running muscles; glutes (piriformis stretch), quads and hip flexor, hamstrings and calves. (see some of the stretches in our previous blog post about warm ups/cool downs)
Last week I wrote all about fuel, and post run nutrition is key to efficient recovery. Try to hit that magic 20-30 minute feed window to replenish your muscles’ glycogen stores and top up your protein levels.
4. Passive recovery
In today’s hectic world when we try to squeeze in what feels like a million things a day, we are simply burning the candle at both ends and in the middle too! Make sure you get enough quality sleep at night time. You will be amazed at how much better your running will be. Building enough rest into your training plan (and sticking to it) will also allow you to go out hard for your tough sessions in addition to the all-important race day.
5. Active recovery
Recovery runs should be built into your weekly routine. Many people try to factor in a slower run but still don’t run slow enough, probably because it doesn’t feel like you are doing a proper session. You should be running slow enough to breath just through your nose, hold a full conversation and take in your surroundings. This type of run will flush fresh blood around your body helping to remove toxins and when you get home you should finish the session feeling like you could go out immediately and do it all over again.
Grab yourself a massage or take some time to indulge in the steam room and sauna. You can even have a mini stretching session; warm spas are a great place to do this.
More lycra! Invest in some compression clothing. When you squeeze yourself into these specially designed garments after a run it can help your venous return, ensuring blood doesn’t pool in your muscles and aiding glycogen restocking.
It is obvious and as runners it should always be on our list; stay well hydrated. This will help muscular repair, aid digestion, reduce fatigue, and improve your heart rate recovery, too.
If you can brave it, try an occasional ice bath, whilst refuelling. It feels like torture but your muscles will thank you.
At the other end of the spectrum is a warm bath with Epsom salts before bed. This should help to remove lactic acid and aid pre-sleep stretching, as well as just helping you relax at the end of another busy day.
10. Cross training
Why not get out and have a go at another sport? Bike, swim, yoga are all great options. Cross training is important as it reduces the repetitive strain you place on your body, helping you prevent injuries. Alternative lower impact sports will give you a break from high impact running.