How to recover sooner following an intense run (fast/speed workout or long run).
Running fast workouts and long runs are key parts of the training process. During the run you feel strong and push through pain. Upon finishing you welcome the runner’s high, a sense of pride that the hard work will pay off. You’ve earnt a rest. But don’t relax too much, we’ve all experienced what is to come. Later that day, or the following morning we are barely able to move and every step hurts. Sometimes it takes days, even weeks, to recover. Meaning that we can’t get back out there and train, reducing the positive benefit of our previous tough exertion. We need to recover our body so that is able to get out there again.
Outlined below is the ‘optimal’ recovery process.
You almost certainly won’t be able to do all the steps all of the time. This is the ‘ideal’ recovery plan and you’re free to pick and choose what you can fit in post run.
For example, the easiest and most important elements, hydration and refuelling, are easier to get in while the ice bath is a luxury.
Hydrating wiydthin the first 10-15 minutes after stopping. Even if the temperature was cool, or downright cold, you still sweat a significant amount and you need to replace the fluid loss. Water is enough, just make sure you replace your lost salts with food. Or you can use an electrolyte drink.
Stretching should begin within 25-30 minutes of finishing your run. It should last 10-15 minutes, focusing on the major muscle groups (quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips) as well as anything that is sore or tight. Foam roll any problem areas to alleviate any knots and tightness.
Once hydrated consume a small meal/snack that contains a 4 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 30 minutes of your hard run. E.g. peanut butter, banana on wholewheat toast.
4. Take an ice bath
Fill your bathtub with cold water and add ice the ice should take about 3-5 minutes to melt. Submerse your entire lower body in the water. The trick to ice baths is surviving the first 3 minutes. After 3 minutes or so, you’ll notice the temperature feels more temperate and you can actually relax a little. Remain in the tub for 10 minutes. After, go ahead and take your shower. Your legs will feel cold for a few hours, but your muscles will thank you later. If you don’t have ‘a lot’ of ice, then just use cold water – still does a decent job.
5. Eat a decent sized, healthy meal
1-2 hours after your run you should consume a high quality meal with a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. This provides your body with the final nutrients it needs to top off the recovery process.
6. Nap, relax, or get a massage
Another luxury but I have thrown it in as this is an ‘ideal’ process.
7. Walk, Roll and Stretch
If time allows, go for a short easy walk followed by another 15 minutes of stretching and rolling. This will just help to shift any toxins from the muscles and it should help you sleep.
8. Get plenty of sleep
Lastly, aim to get a good night sleep. Sleep is the bodies time to repair itself ready to go again the following day.
This routine is extensive, you won’t always have time to fit all steps in. It does however give you an idea of the things you can do. Fit in as much as you can after a long or hard run and you will be back running again much sooner. The day after, consider a decent walk or even a steady recovery run or cycle to really get those legs back at it again.
AC Running and Fitness