Unsure of exactly what to do after a run?
It’s easy to finish a run and simply bask in that post-run endorphin high. But in many ways, your post run routine can be just as important as your training.
In this article, we are going to run through 9 must do’s of what to do after a run as well as an optional non-essential habit that will boost your running recovery to the next level.
Ready to become better at running recovery?
#1: Cool Down
Just as a warm up gets your body ready for exercise, a cool down helps your body to get back to that state of rest. A cool down will help your breathing and heart rate slow down, and your muscles relax.
It also helps your body to eliminate lactic acid and waste products from its muscles by aiding blood flow to those areas.
How fast should your cool down be?
This depends on your level of running.
But your cool down run or walk should be done at a slower pace than your base training pace so that you don’t put any extra stress on your body.
How long should your cool down be?
Once again, this depends on how much of a runner you are. But your cool-down should last at least 5-10 minutes.
Stretching can be one of the most beneficial things to incorporate into your post run routine.
Why people should stretch post-run
Marathon Handbook spoke to Austin Martinez, MS, CSCS, ATC from Stretch Lab about the benefits of stretching after a run. Here’s what Austin told us:
- “Improve Overall Performance – When people work out, their muscles repeatedly flex and contract. If people choose not to stretch afterwards, their muscles remain tight.
Muscles that are lengthened over time – from stretching – increase muscle power and performance.
- Prevent Injuries – Some of the most common injuries happen in conjunction with the knees and ankles – both of which can be prevented with some regular stretching.
It’s no secret muscles need to be warmed up before physical activity, but the reasons behind it are that stretching improves muscle flexibility and helps prepare them for the workload they’re about to take on.
- Ample Muscle Recovery – Muscles need blood flow to help repair small tears they’ve experienced after a workout and that’s where stretching comes into play.
If you’re exercising and want to see improvement, stretching will help just that.
Post-workout stretching increase blood flow in the muscles and allows them to repair themselves efficiently.“
How to stretch post run
Static stretches are the way to go post-run. Focus the main chunk of your stretching routine on your legs.
Don’t overstretch your muscles, just work within your normal range.
And you don’t need to stretch for long to reap the benefits, just 5 minutes is better than none!
#3: Foam Roll
It is a good idea to make foam rolling a regular part of your post run routine, it’s solidly science-backed!
In a study by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers found that foam rolling for just one minute can improve an athletes range of motion, while another study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that foam rolling after intense exercise can relieve muscle soreness over the next two days.
Foam rolling can also increase a runner’s mind-body connection.
Working out where all of those tight spots are in your body gives you the opportunity to work on easing them.
This one sounds obvious, and it should be.
As you run you sweat.
This makes your skin the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Getting straight into the shower after a run is a great way to wash off any unhealthy (and smelly) bacteria.
Showering also helps to clean your pores.
As you sweat, your pores open to release sweat from your sweat glands. These pores can then become clogged with dead skin and bacteria if you’re not able to jump in the shower soon after a sweaty run.
Water is essential for life, it makes up 60% of your body weight and plays a key role in almost all of your the human body’s functions. So it’s important to stay hydrated.
It is normal for you to be modestly dehydrated when you get back from a run, as long as you replenish your stocks as soon as possible.
For every kilogram of body weight that you lose via dehydration, the advice is that you drink one and a half litres of water.
But there’s no need to be too fastidious about the numbers. Instead, simply drink to quench your thirst.
So if you’re feeling very thirsty it might be a good idea to drink a sports drink or some diluted juice.
If you’ve been running for less than an hour, then plain water is a good choice, however, if you’ve been out there for longer, you’ll need to replace your electrolytes too.
This can either be done by drinking a sports drink, or by simply eating a salted or salt-containing meal or snack.
As a rule of thumb, you should try to eat a meal or snack as quickly as possible after getting back from a run.
More specifically, aim to eat within 30-60 minutes of getting back from your run.
Registered dietitian Mackenzie Burgess spoke to Marathon Handbook;
“As a general guideline, aim for about a 1:3 ratio of protein to carbohydrates.”
Related: Check out this article for more information on what to eat after a run.
#7: Have An Ice Bath
Elite athletes are a big fan of this one.
Ok, so this one is non-essential but if you’re brave, it could help to boost your recovery.
Fans of the ice bath purport that taking a dip in an ice bath can help to relieve muscle soreness and fatigue. This has been supported by various studies, but on the whole, the research is inconclusive.
So if you don’t feel like making an ice bath a regular part of your post run routine, don’t worry!
Research shows that having an ice bath isn’t any better than an active recovery cool down. So as long as you’re cooling your muscles down in some way, it’s not essential that you make an ice bath part of your post run routine.
Sleep is king when it comes to running recovery.
Ultrarunner and running coach Zach Bitter highlights the importance of sleep,
“It’s definitely quality over quantity, so getting a routine that allows you to get deep sleep, especially in peak training, is key to absorbing the hard training efforts needed to get faster and stronger.”
Performing at your peak isn’t all just about the training you do, it is also highly dependent on your quality of sleep.
Here are some top tips to improve your sleep:
- Don’t consume caffeine during the afternoons. It is best to restrict your caffeine intake to the mornings.
- Avoid alcohol consumption before bed. Alcohol can disrupt your sleep and leave you feeling groggy the next day.
- Reframe your sleep as being part of your post run routine. It’s all about mindset and prioritising this part of your recovery.
- Avoid high stress activities during the evening. Instead of watching a high stress drama, try reading.
#9: Recovery days/runs
Unsure of what to do after a run in the days following?
The day after a big running day, getting in an active recovery workout can help you bounce back quicker.
Active recovery workouts are low-intensity exercise sessions that get your body moving.
It may sound counterintuitive, but active recovery can often be much more beneficial for recovery than doing nothing at all.
This is because your body recovers from exercise by delivering nutrients to your muscles via your bloodstream. Because of this, anything that increases the amount of blood pumping through your muscles is going to speed up recovery (as long as it’s gentle, and not causing more damage).
Related: Check out this article on the best rest day workouts for runners.
To Summarise- What To Do After A Run
Here’s your ideal post run routine to bounce back from a hard running session like a champion.
- Cool Down– Wind those muscles down.
- Stretch– Prevent injuries and recover faster.
- Foam Roll– Releive muscle soreness and increase your mind-body connection.
- Shower– Duh!
- Rehydrate– Replenish water and electrolytes lost in sweat.
- Refuel– Replenish glycogen stores and rebuild muscle.
- Have an Ice Bath (optional!)- Feel invigorated and releive sore muscles.
- Sleep– Absorb your hard training efforts.
- Recovery Days/Runs– Get your blood pumping and your muscles back in action.
Interested in whether you should be making beer a part of your post run routine?