How to recover after a run or race
To perform your best and reduce your risk of injury, it’s essential to recover after each run properly.
After finishing your run, it’s important to recover properly. This is especially important if you’ve just finished a race, long run, tempo run, or interval session. Without proper post-run recovery, we are limiting our potential to perform our best in our next run or workout.
To help you recover properly, we have gathered together a list of essentials.
A running cooldown lowers our breathing and heart rate, relaxes our muscles, and removes lactic acid – reducing our recovery time. A running cooldown is even more important following a long run, tempo run, or interval session. This is to prepare us for our next run best while reducing our risk of injury.
To perform a proper running cooldown, we suggest running 10-15 minutes at an easy pace followed by some light static stretching.
Before running, we suggest performing dynamic stretching, whereas after finishing your run/cool down, we recommend doing some static stretching. Static stretching is focused on holding a movement for a given period. Examples of these include:
- Hamstring stretch
- Quadricep stretch
- Calf & Achilles stretch
Static stretching after running will help you cool down, increase your flexibility and range of motion, and reduce your risk of injury – all for the sake of a couple of minutes.
Foam rolling is a method of myofascial release done to reduce pain and muscle soreness. Foam rolling also increases blood flow and oxygen to our muscles. This speeds up our recovery and reduces our risk of injury.
Tip: Foam roll multiple times per day, once in the morning, after your run, and before bed.
What to eat after a run
After a run, you should aim to eat within 30-minutes. This is the ideal time to kick-start recovery as your body as in need of much-needed nutrients for growth and muscle repair.
You want to eat foods high in protein and carbohydrates. This is because protein is essential for muscle repair and carbohydrates are the bodies energy source, required for high-intensity work. Examples of meals to eat after training include:
- Tuna pasta
- Chicken, sweet potato and veg
- ½ cup of cottage cheese
- Chicken stir fry
You also want to avoid alcohol if possible. Alcohol will slow down the recovery and repair of our muscles.
Tip: Prepare a post-run meal beforehand and keep it in the fridge
Post-run recovery drink
Runners may opt for a post-run recovery drink. These drinks typically contain anywhere from 20-30g of protein and carbohydrates as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Post-run recovery drinks are ideal as these can be consumed immediately after finishing your run.
We recommend the science in sport rego rapid recovery shakes. These are great for runners as they contain marginally more carbohydrates than traditional protein shakes.
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Tip: Make your post-run recovery drink in advance
Running recovery supplements
The main electrolyte lost during exercise is sodium. Sodium is responsible for maintaining a healthy water balance. Just like recovery drinks, electrolyte mixes can also be bought. These are particularly useful if running in the heat or for a long duration.
Proper hydration is key to optimal running performance. You should aim to be drinking before, during, and after your run. After your run is especially important, as our water content is much lower. Drinking after your run will prevent dehydration and speed up the recovery process.
Tip: Weigh yourself before and after your run. Whatever you lose needs to be replaced with water.
When we exercise our muscle cells breakdown. Sleep allows us to repair and rebuild these muscle cells, allowing us to become faster and stronger runners. Runners should aim to get a minimum of 8-10 hours of sleep per night.
If we don’t get enough sleep, we increase our risk of injury. This is because we are not allowing our muscle cells adequate amounts of time to repair and rebuild, ready for our next run.
For further information and tips on sleep, we recommend checking out our blog post on the importance of sleep as a runner.
Recovering correctly after a run with a cool down, static stretching, hydration, and a meal or recovery shake within 30-minutes is the fastest way to kick start our recovery. Second, it’s essential to hit the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night, this will speed up our recovery and ensure we can run our next run at the required intensity.