Post-Run Recovery - 10 Tips to Help You Bounce Back
Whether you’re training for a marathon or 10K race, hitting the trail most days, or totally new to the sport, you want to perform your best. And you need to protect your body from the impact of your workout.
If you’re looking for tips on how to recover after a long run, you’ve come to the right place. These running recovery tools will help you relieve muscle soreness after a run, reduce the chance of injury, and help you bounce back quickly so you can keep training.
Why Is Recovery After Running So Important?
Exercise, including running, depletes your body’s store of glycogen, which your body uses to create energy. A run or workout also creates tiny tears in the muscles which your body needs time to repair. That’s why giving your body time to rest and supporting it with other healthy recovery practices is key to helping you bounce back.
Proper post-run recovery will help you avoid injuries like stress fractures or strained tendons. It can reduce soreness in your legs after running and may improve your overall performance. So, let’s dive into some after-running recovery tips you can start using right away.
Ten Tips for Effective Post-Run Recovery
Drink Plenty of Water
It should come as no surprise this is at the top of our list, as hydration is crucial to many major body functions. Water in the body keeps your joints lubricated, helps regulate blood pressure and temperature, and supports proper muscle function and recovery. Peloton instructor Hannah Corbin recommends drinking water before, during, and after your workouts to promote proper hydration and peak performance.
The amount of water you need to drink varies depending on factors such as weather, activity type, and your current level of hydration—our hydration calculator can help you determine your ideal hydration level.
Restore your Electrolyte Balance
When you sweat, you obviously lose water. But your body is also depleted of essential electrolytes like magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Without electrolytes, your body might feel depleted and you may experience muscle cramps or lightheadedness. And, your body will certainly have to work harder to recover.
Especially after a longer run (90 minutes or more) or a session in hot and humid weather, you may need to restore your electrolyte levels. This often means supplementing your water intake with an electrolyte drink or powder mix (such as SUSTAIN electrolyte tear sticks).
Nourish Your Body Properly
What’s the best food to help your body recover after a run? Great question. Your post-run meal should contain both lean protein and complex (non-sugary) carbohydrates, eaten within 30 minutes to 2 hours after your run.
Some of the best sources of complex carbs for runners are peas, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, and brown rice, while high-protein foods include eggs, lean meat, fish, or yogurt.
Mix Up Your Training Routine
Many runners know that cross-training is a great way to avoid overworking certain muscles while still being active. Cross-training involves mixing up your workouts to target different muscle groups. Low-impact activities like yoga, swimming, biking or even a short walk will give your muscles and joints a break after a hard-running day.
Depending on your body, you should also consider a full rest day with no workouts one to two days a week.
Warm Up Before You Start Running
In this case, setting yourself up for recovery starts before the run even begins. Warming up gets your blood flowing and supplies oxygen to the muscles, which will help you prepare for the work ahead.
You want to avoid stretching cold muscles—instead, to prepare for a long run, try walking briskly or doing some light aerobic exercise for 5 - 10 minutes. Warm-up exercises can include sets of ankle rolls, marching with high knees, hip rotations, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, and toe touches.
Cool Down and Stretch Afterwards
Runners are prone to soreness in the legs after running, specifically in the quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips. However, experts say a proper cool down including stretches can aid in muscle recovery, preserve range of motion in your joints, and increase flexibility.
Allow your heart rate to slow down gradually by walking fast or jogging slowly for 5-10 minutes. Then do some static stretches while your muscles are still warm.
Roll or Massage Sore Muscles
Another tool for leg recovery after a run is to use a foam roller. Foam rolling can potentially be a bit painful, but it will help you work out any knots or kinks you may have. Rolling also promotes blood flow, which may help with sore quads or other muscles after running. If you’re new to working with foam rollers, use the magic of the internet to teach yourself some foam rolling exercises before you dive in.
If you prefer, let a licensed massage therapist do the work. Sports massage can be a relaxing way to care for your body after getting your miles in.
Get Plenty of Sleep
This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often people overlook the importance of sleep for healthy recovery after a run (or ride or hike or any other workout). A good night’s sleep is your body’s best chance to repair and rebuild. So, make sure you get 8 - 9 hours of sound sleep per night, especially during training periods.
Consider Cold Therapy
You may have seen professional athletes do this after a big game or heard of marathon runners including it in their post-race recovery routine. Cold therapy, cryotherapy, and cold water immersion are all just nice ways of saying “dunk yourself into an ice bath”.
A sports medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic affirms ice baths can have post-workout benefits. Taking a chilly dip into ice-cold water reduces inflammation and soothes sore muscles. And of course, it lowers your core body temperature.
Talk to your doctor before doing cold water immersion if you have a medical condition.
Try Branched-Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Supplements
Have you heard of using branched-chain amino acid supplements to help speed up the recovery process? BCAA supplements are popular with marathon runners, triathletes, and other fitness enthusiasts.
These essential amino acids occur naturally in protein-rich foods like eggs, meat, dairy, soy, nuts, and legumes. But athletes will sometimes take BCAAs shortly after a run for their ability to reduce muscle soreness and damage, decrease fatigue, and support muscle growth.
Learn more about the Benefits of BCAAs for Post-Workout Recovery.