You’ve probably heard that the most important aspect of training is recovery and what you do after your workout. I’ll be honest, before I trained for a half marathon I believed that all “post-run rules” were a total myth. Boy was I wrong. Once my weekly mileage dramatically increased, I quickly learned that what you do post-run is almost as, if not more than, important than the workout itself.
Every time you run your body breaks down muscle fibers resulting in tiny micro tears in your muscles. In order to aid your body in recovery and make sure your muscles are strong and ready to go for your next run, the actions you take after you run are key.
You may think once your run is over you can continue on to your day-to-day life, but by following these 7 post-run rules, you’ll be on your way to feeling better, getting stronger, and running faster and farther. Who doesn’t want that?
1. Replenish with a small snack
Chances are the moment you take out your headphones, the sound of your grumbling stomach will be heard. After a good run, you deserve to treat yo self — but don’t grab just anything.
A small recovery meal that consists of a balance of proteins and simple sugars will do the trick to re-fuel your muscles while holding you over until you can get a satisfactory meal. A glass of chocolate milk or piece of fresh fruit — a banana being my personal favorite — will not make you feel instantly fatigued.
2. Hydrate with electrolytes (and water)
Hopefully it’s instinctual to grab a big glass of water post run, so go for it. But water can only do so much. While running, you sweat out plenty of electrolytes, chemicals that form ions that help you to perform bodily functions at an optimal level. Too few electrolytes will cause your body to cramp so it’s crucial to get them back into your system… nobody likes sore muscles anyways.
Try to avoid super sugary drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. Instead, pop two electrolyte tabs into your water to help with recovery while also adding flavor. With each tab boasting 100 mg potassium only 1g of sugar, Nuun Active Tablets are my go-to for post-run recovery (especially the lemon-lime flavor, just sayin’).
3. Stretch, stretch, stretch
We all have jam-packed schedules, so chances you don’t take the time to stretch post run — I’m guilty of it. Stretching is a crucial part of your workout that should not be overlooked. Performing stretches designed specifically for runners will allow your body to cool down, keep your muscles from tightening up and allow you to become more flexible with time.
Flexibility and running actually go hand and hand. The more flexible you are, the better range of motion and longer strides you have, allowing you to get the most out of your next run. Stretching will also reduce soreness, allowing you to be ready to go for your next workout in no time.
4. Hop in an ice bath
Yup you heard me right, this is not the time for a relaxing hot tub. I mean after stretching nothing sounds better than sitting in a tub full of ice, right? Ok so maybe a lot of things sound more appealing but trust me, it’s worth it. After three minutes in you’ll probably be numb anyways so you won’t feel a thing.
Ice baths are extremely beneficial, reducing swelling and flushing out metabolic debris from your muscles to help aid in recovery. If you don’t feel like using buckets of ice, cold water will do the trick. Survive the first few minutes and the rest of your time in the tub is easy. Sit back, relax and pretend you’re basking in the sun (in Antartica) for 15-20 minutes and I promise your body will thank you tomorrow.
5. Eat a full meal
Let’s be honest, everyone’s favorite part of running is the meal that follows. After all, you just had a kick-ass workout so you deserve it. It’s important to have a true meal 30-45 minutes after you finish running.
Make sure your meal of choice has a 4:1 ratios of carbs and protein. Don’t fear the carbs. They are your body’s source of fuel and are stored in the muscles and fibers as glycogen. Protein is important for the growth and repair of your muscles. A sandwich with lean meats and low-fat cheese or yogurt with granola and fruit will do the trick.
6. Foam roll
Once a technique only used by professional athletes and trainers, foam rolling has made its big debut in the real world in the recent years. Foam rolling is beneficial for the mobility of the fascia, the fibrous layer of connective tissue that surrounds all of your muscles. Incorporating foam rolling into your post running schedule will also help increase blood flow, reduce cellulite, decrease recovery time and increase mobility.
Foam rollers come in all shapes and sizes, some being smooth and others having ridges for extra message benefits. Don’t have a foam roller? No worries, a tennis or lacrosse ball will work too. Foam roll at night while you divulge yourself in a daily dose of Netflix and it won’t feel like a chore at all.
7. Don’t pop pills
We’ve all been there, super sore from a good run that we run to Advil to help relieve any inflammation and pain. But the reality is that your body is a lot smarter than you give it credit for and can repair itself to a certain extent without the help of ibuprofen.
With proper nutrition and plenty of water, you’re already assisting your body with flushing out superfluous inflammation. Consistently turning to ibuprofen can give you a false sense of relief, leading you to push yourself before your body is actually ready to go out and run again.
Next time you head out for a jog, be sure to follow these seven post-run rules. Trust me, your body will thank you later.