There’s no better feeling than finishing a hard run and bring pleased with your efforts.

Especially in the Winter, with the cold dark nights closing in on us. It would be understandable and tempting just to kick back and relax after your run with no post-training regime to recover correctly.  But recover you must, if you intend refuelling, preparing for the next run and remaining injury free. Recovery is the process of restoring your body back to normal homeostasis and energy levels. The process involves refuelling, repairing and resting whilst adapting to training. Recover and rest days is a vital part of the periodisation to training that allows you to improve and progress towards your chosen goals.

Warming down and allowing your body to recover is all part of the longevity of sport.

So, before you take a hot shower or bath, you should stretch and maybe even gently massage any tight or sore areas of your body. Stretching is really important to relax muscle groups in your legs that have just worked really hard. The action of a stretch allows your connective tissue made of collagen fibre to align correctly and muscles to return to their normal relaxed state. It also allows you to focus on any areas that may have become tight or injured during the run for you to keep an eye on, and remove any waste chemical built up in the muscle cells from intensive training. Not to mention the release of the ‘happy chemical’ dopamine as a reward for stretching.

After you have had your relaxing post-run bath or shower, keep moving and don’t allow your muscles, ligaments and tendon to stiffen-up. Continue to gently stretch if you feel you need to, and maybe even book in with the massage therapist at least once a week.  Top athletes often have massage daily during the heavy training periods of their competitive year. Of course, straight after your run rehydrate and replace any lost electrolytes like sodium, potassium and manganese. These are available from certain foods, coconut water, but especially from proprietary post-exercise sports drinks like SiS (Science in Sport) and Precision Hydration (SweatSalt Electrolyte Capsules).

Relaxing after you’ve run is clearly a great idea, but there are a few important things you should do first that will make you feel a thousand times better when you next go for a run.  Doing absolutely nothing is what we all want to do when we’ve pushed ourselves and trained hard.  There are, however, lots of runners who neglect their recovery. For some, taking the necessary steps to promote recovery isn’t a priority, for others, perhaps it boils down to time restrictions. Others, however, may not know what they need to do help with their recovery.  So, if you’re a runner and fall into one of these categories, read on for more tips and advice to put yourself on a better road to recovery.

Refuelling

There’s no need to obsess with rapidly recovering as soon as you’ve finished running! But our advice is that you try to eat or drink something within the hour post-exercise. If you are unable to, don’t stress, your body will still recover but at a slower rate. In fact, your body will refuel for several hours after running, but what you eat and when you eat will determine the rate at which this occurs.  As soon as you can, consume carbohydrates and protein to replace depleted muscles glycogen and to repair damaged muscle tissue. Running will stress many different types of tissue in your body including muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone. Even red blood cells are damaged from the impact of your feet on the ground. Refuelling correctly helps to repair these tissues.

How to determine how many carbs you need?

According to the International Olympics Committee’s Nutritional Recommendations, athletes are advised to target adequate carbs determined by body weight and training intensity:

Amount of exercise Gram carb/lb Gram carb/kg
Moderate (~1 hour/day) 2.5 to 3 5-7
Endurance (1-3 h/day) 2.5 to 4.5 6-10
Extreme (>4-5 h/day) 3.5 to 5.5 8-1

 

Ice baths

Cold therapy is one of the most effective ways to reduce damage created to certain tissues from a strenuous sport.

However, ice baths are only effective if used properly.

Ice-baths:

  • Constrict blood vessels metabolic activity
  • Reduces any swelling after tissue breakdown
  • Improves blood circulation and aids the removal of waste products
  • Reduces inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
  • Improves overall muscle function

Try to achieve a water temperature of around 10-15 degrees Celsius. If you can stand colder temperatures that’s also okay. When you first attempt an ice bath, you’ll probably find it impossible to immerse your whole-body into the cold water. That’s fine, don’t give up, take small steps and build your way up to this. Start by standing and work your way through to be able to immerse your body for around 15 – 20 minutes.

Get a good night’s sleep

A final important aspect to consider when recovering in between runs is the amount and quality of sleep that you have.  Having sufficient sleep between training sessions is vital because it will reduce physical and mental stress, and may even keep you free from illness.

Generally, people should aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, athletes, however, should be aiming for 8-10.  If you make sleep a priority like you do your training, then you will have no problem getting the right amount of zzz’s drinking caffeine and alcohol, and make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. So, make sleep your priority and you will notice the benefits in your training and races.

Hopefully, this article has persuaded you to take at least one, hopefully, more, simple steps to promote your recovery. The recovery process is as important as the training itself and it should be for every runner!  So, when you’ve planned your training, ideally you should put as much effort into planning your recovery. Once you have managed to achieve this, it won’t take long until you, along with others will notice the improvements in your harder efforts.