Whether you’re a couch to 5k runner or training for your 7th marathon, how you recover after your runs is just as important as how you warm up and is vital for staving off muscle soreness and improving your overall performance. Following these 7 tips will help improve your recovery and minimise the risk of injury.
1. Cool down
Make sure you don’t come to a dead stop at the end of your run. Instead, do a gentle cool down, such as a light 10–15 minute jog or even just a gentle walk and some stretches. A proper cool down is an important first step to kick-starting your recovery process. It helps your body recover, reduces muscle soreness and keeps you moving without seizing up.
Rehydrating after a run is a key. Start taking on fluids as soon as you can to try and replace all the water, minerals and electrolytes you’ll have sweated out on your run. Hydrating is a crucial component of any physical activity, especially if you want to maintain the body’s balance, keep it functioning properly, and avoid muscle cramps and dizziness.
A solid post-run meal or snack, within 20 to 30 minutes of your run, will ensure you take advantage of the key window for refuelling. This can help provide nutrients to repair any damage that occurred during your run and can speed up recovery. Try to get a good mixture of carbohydrates, protein and a little healthy fat. Good snack ideas include a banana, dried fruit, nuts and a yoghurt, an egg white omelet with spinach and some fresh fruit.
Stretching can help with post-run recovery but can also help improve your mood and reduce stress by releasing endorphins. After your run try spending 30 minutes stretching your legs and back out. This will increase your flexibility and range of motion and also it just feels good!
5. More refuelling…
Following on from your post-run snack, within 2–3 hours you should try a have a larger balanced meal. Try to focus on protein or a big veggie push, such as a veggie-packed omelette or a salmon or steak. This will all help with recovery and the veggies will help to reduce inflammation.
After your run try and get an early nights sleep as this will also help to speed up your recovery. Winding down in the evening with a bath, massage or stretching session and then hitting the hay at a decent time can really improve your recovery and allow time for your muscles to repair and rebuild.
7. Rest and recover
If you’ve completed an especially long run don’t dive straight back into your normal training routine as your body will likely need a bit more time for recovery. However, it’s important that you keep active and do some light exercise — such as a gentle cross training on the bike or a swim, and changing up the activity can also be a good break to your routine. Once your body feels better you can build up the training again and avoid injuries.