I was recently asked about post running recovery, and I thought I would share my thoughts and insights here. First, there is the food. If your work out goal is weight loss, you don’t want to finish a work out and have foods high in fat. Even healthy fat, like salmon. Search for lean protein, like chicken and complex carbs, like potatoes. If your goal is not weight loss, salmon is a great healthy fat and protein source. You want to make sure you eat slowly, and be sitting at a table. When you rush through a post run meal, it is easier for your body to think you haven’t fed it enough calories, and you feel famished all day long.
Next is the cool down and stretching. Your hip flexors, IT band, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves are all important parts to stretch. You should hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. Stretching is as much a relaxing of your central nervous system as anything, so make sure you are breathing through your stretch, and not pushing your stretch to the point of pain. I try to always finish a run with a gentle walk, to bring my heart rate back down.
One of my favorite things for aiding in running recovery is a rolling stick. I used to have The Stick brand, and it was great. I currently use one from Trigger Point Performance Therapy. I find it more effective for self rolling, especially calves and IT band, when compared to a traditional foam roller.
If you have feet/arch/plantar fasciitis problems, a lacrosse ball is vital to recovery. When the pain is great, freeze a half full water bottle, and then roll it out on your foot. The lacrosse ball is great for rolling through your feet, as well as getting into particular knots.
Make sure when you run you are focusing on your breathing, as well as your posture. Staying upright while running requires core strength. If you notice your low back is in pain, do exercises like planks to increase your core strength. You can also practice sitting upright and standing upright while at work. Think head pulled to ceiling by a string, shoulders down and back, thighs lifted, and heels grounded. The opposition will give you great posture, as well as work your whole body as you get used to proper posture.
On off days from running, cross training is really important. If you only ever run forwards, you can overdevelop your quads and neglect your hamstrings. So you can walk or jog backwards, or do exercises like dead lifts to increase hamstring strength. You may feel like you only run on flat ground, but working on lateral (side to side) movement is very important. If you run outside, the ground is not perfectly level and in a race situation, you may need to pass people, so moving laterally is actually functional. You should also work on your shoulders, chest, and back. You want your upper carriage to be strong and equal, as you run, you need to have the strength to maintain your arm swing.
If you are a morning exerciser, I strongly recommend you look into B complex, or more specifically B12 supplements. Especially when taken mid morning or early afternoon, they can help prevent the 3 PM slump that so many people find themselves feeling. B12 stimulates red blood cell activity, which in turn boost energy levels. If you are finding yourself very sore, try glutamine instead of advil for muscle relief. Joint pain can be helped by taking glucosamine chondroitin or a magnesium spray.
It is important to keep your body hydrated as well. I tend to not drink on my runs, even long runs. I don’t like the way I can feel the water slosh around in my belly. I make sure to drink a lot of water when I finish running, to replace what was sweat off and to stay hydrated all day long.
It doesn’t matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch.
A big part of running is the mindset. Whether you feel an endorphin rush, like the way your body looks from running, or find your run time a great replacement for prozac, running is an individual sport. When you train, you don’t have people cheering you, supporting you, or even yelling at you. You need to keep going until your run is done, not until you feel tired or you think you can’t take anymore. Running does not mean you run at a minimum speed, or run so many miles a week, or belong to some club. Running just means that you hit the pavement in some gym shoes, and stick to the plan for the day. Happy running!
What do you think I missed? Or maybe you have a different suggestion than one of mine given here. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.