The euphoric high off completing a long run is an unbeatable feeling. As you run, you feel strong and accomplished, and have an inherent sense of pride. We celebrate the achievement, head home, and forget about everything else.
Then, the cramp sets in. If there’s one feeling that compares to the high of completing the long run, it’s the low of the next day’s aches and pains. Standing up seems like a struggle, and there’s no way we can even think about exercising. Instead, we vow never to run again.
But with the right recovery strategy, we can keep the high of a long run, without the low of the following aches. Recovering correctly is a vital part of any run, and it needs to be taken seriously. Read this guide to find out how to recover after a long run.
How To Recover After A Long Run
Ease yourself out of the run by slowing down, walking, and coming to a gradual stop. Don’t just stop altogether, or you won’t give your muscles a chance to ease up.
One of the most important things to do after a long run is to hydrate. The body will have lost water as sweat during a run, and you need to replenish.
Water is good for shorter runs, but if you’ve been out for a long time, have a sports drink. This will rehydrate, and replenish lost electrolytes and sugars. Chocolate milk and protein shakes can provide hydration, carbohydrates, and proteins.
At this point, you probably aren’t going to have a huge appetite, but eating post-run is a vital step in recovery. Yogurt and granola, a plain bagel with peanut butter, or a high-carb protein bar are good choices. Prepare something before you go, so you don’t just eat whatever’s on hand.
A light stretch post-run can stop your muscles from tightening, and ease stiffness. Don’t do any vigorous stretching, instead find poses that are comfortable without putting strain on the legs. Muscles should be loose and pliable at this point.
By now, you should be home and out of your sweaty running clothes. If you can, take an ice bath. It feels awful in the moment, but can really ease soreness the next day. Change into something warm and comfortable, and tuck into a healthy and balanced meal.
Lean proteins, complex carbs, and plenty of vitamins should make up the plate. Chicken breast and seafood are good and load up on veggies.
Foam Roller And More Stretches
At this point post-run, the muscles should have cooled down and may start to feel a little tight. Using a foam roller, or some more light stretches can get circulation moving again. In an ideal world, now would be the time for a massage.
Try to keep moving throughout the evening, rather than just collapsing onto the sofa. Get up every once in a while, just to move the muscles.
After a good, long run, you’re probably ready to crash out. Luckily, that’s one of the most important parts of recovery. As you relax into a good night’s sleep, your body is hard at work.
The next day is about keeping up good habits. Try some light exercise, eat plenty of proteins and veggies, and stay hydrated. A short run, gentle walk, or some yoga are all good.
Ease Back Into Running
Recovery isn’t a one-day process, and the muscles will still need time to repair. Devise a long-term routine, featuring rest days and recovery periods.
Recovery is a personal thing, and not everyone will have the time to properly rest after a long run. Find a routine that works for you, minimizes aches and pains, and speeds up the recovery process.
Also, consider how you feel after a long run. It might be that calf soreness hangs around for a few days. You might feel low aches, but a general sense of fatigue. Tailor your recovery plan to suit your own needs.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From A Long Run?
It’s impossible to know for sure how long recovery is going to take, but expect to need at least one day off from training. After a more intense run, you may need three to five days before you can get back to your routine. Don’t try to push through your recovery, or you might just make things work.
No matter how well you react and treat sore muscles, there still will be a recovery period. And it’s likely to fluctuate, even when you follow the same routine. The human body isn’t a machine, after all.
What Should You Not Do After A Long Run?
Once you’ve finished your long run, there are a few things you should avoid doing.
Don’t just stop. It’s so tempting to just sit down after a long run and call it a day, but you’ll regret it in the long term. In fact, you’ll regret it almost immediately, as soon as you go to stand up again.
Don’t push too hard, but don’t stop altogether. Following your long run, aim to keep movement light, and fairly consistent. Don’t just collapse into bed, but don’t try and rearrange the furniture either.
Don’t celebrate with a night out. One drink to toast your success should be okay, but avoid anything more. Alcohol is a diuretic, and can slow your recovery.
An important part of recovery is preparation. The night before a 5K, you must eat a well-balanced meal, featuring proteins, carbohydrates, and some healthy fats. Chicken breast or salmon, brown rice, and green veg make up a healthy plate.
Before the run, you need to eat something with carbs. Whole grain toasted, oatmeal, peanut butter and banana can provide the energy you need.
Race recovery doesn’t have to be complex. Listen to your body, and do what you can to keep it fueled and comfortable as your muscles relax and repair. With the right post-run routine, you’ll be up and running your next 5K in no time at all!