Do you have a post run recovery plan? If not, you may be making less progress than you could. Post run recovery strategies encourage you to slow down today so you can become a faster runner tomorrow.
Recovery runs and ice baths may sound funny, but they work. A recovery run is a light run that you do after a more intense one, ideally a few hours later. Think of it as an easy aerobic exercise that can make you feel better and has a few other benefits for your body.
Alongside the other strategies we’ll be talking about in this guide, it’s one of the most effective ways to help your body get in optimal shape for your next run.
If you’re wondering how to recover after a long run or how to recover after running a half marathon, the strategies in this guide are for you.
Read on to learn more about the importance and benefits of recovery runs and other recovery strategies and how to do them to maximize your results.
This guide on how to recover from running is ideal for beginners who want to build the capacity to run faster and harder.
In This Article:
Why Is Recovery Run Important?
According to the theory of supercompensation in sport science, after you train, your body recovers beyond your pre-training fitness level. Running causes fatigue and muscle soreness as a result of micro tears in your muscles and glycogen depletion. It’s because of this that you have to recover after training.
Supercompensation is the period following recovery, when your body is ready for a higher level of stress than before. During this phase, your muscle fibers are stronger and glycogen storage increases.
Supercompensation lasts 5 to 10 days, during which you can train again leaving enough recovery time in between to take advantage of the gains and avoid the decline in fitness following this period.
You want to do recovery runs and other post run recovery strategies before the supercompensation phase kicks in, while your muscles are healing. Helping your body recover ensures that you can get the most out of supercompensation.
As we’ll see, the importance of recovery runs isn’t limited to the healing and recovery process your muscles undergo after training.
The Benefits of Recovery Run
Recovery runs don’t speed up recovery, but they help you to recover well. They release endorphins and prevent muscle soreness or at least attenuate it.
At the same time, recovery runs improve blood flow which can help your body process waste products it creates during your run. You can think of them as a way to achieve an “improved” recovery.
With recovery runs you can also add volume to your training week to increase your aerobic capacity, build fatigue resistance, and run faster.
Last but not least, recovery runs make you run slow, which gives you the opportunity to improve form.
For all these reasons, you want to consider including these runs in your post run recovery strategy.
Read on to learn more about how to improve recovery after running and determine the optimal recovery run pace for you.
When & How to Do Recovery Run?
Recovery runs are a must if you’re running more than three times every week.
The best time to do a recovery run is 4 to 5 hours after a high-intensity run, assuming of course you do the first run in the morning or around noon.
If this is not possible, you can do a recovery run within 24 hours after your main run. Often, this would mean the next day.
If you’re doing three intense runs every week, one recovery run a week is enough. You can do it after your last main run of the week.
If you’re running four times a week, do a recovery run on the same day as an intense run.
If you’re running five or six times a week, do at least two recovery runs on the same day as your more intense runs.
Important: You need at least one rest day every week.
Your recovery run should take 30 to 40 minutes or the equivalent of 3 to 5 miles. Run on a flat surface (not incline). Choose a relaxing setting where you can go slow but steady without distractions.
How Often Should You Slow Down?
Recovery runs are by their nature slower than your normal runs. So you should slow down each time you do one.
Slow running helps you develop slow twitch muscles that keep you going during a long race.
Important: Optimal recovery runs fall in the region between 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.
A quick method to figure this out is to subtract your age from 220 and then calculate the percentage.
If you’re 30, that would be: 220 – 28 = 192 / 100 x 70 = 134 beats per minute (bpm). This is a ballpark estimate, a variation of 20 bpm in either direction is okay.
How to Find the Right Recovery Run Pace?
Get a fitness tracker that can monitor your bpm as you run, and stick to the heart rate training pace we talked about above.
The Talk Test can also help you find the right pace—when you do a recovery run, you should be able to maintain a conversation with a friend without effort.
If you don’t have a running partner, give your mom or dad a call as you run and make sure you do some talking—not just listening!
How to Treat Sore Muscles After a Recovery Run
There’s a chance you may get sore muscles after your first recovery run. The first thing to do is hydrate with electrolytes and stretch your muscles.
Then wrap up some ice in a cloth and apply it to your legs. You can also try to elevate your legs. We’ll talk about this more later in this guide.
In the end, you don’t want to sit still for too long after a recovery run but move gently and easily until it’s time to eat and go to bed.
Supplements – Do You Need Them?
Supplements can aid recovery by providing the right mix of Omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients, and electrolytes. They can also give you that extra energy boost you may need on lazy days when you want to do a recovery run but don’t feel like it.
But there’s a lot of variation out there when it comes to runners supplements that aid recovery.
If you’re like most runners, you probably don’t want to be taking half a dozen supplements for aiding recovery, boosting performance, or losing weight.
Never cool down abruptly after your run. Ease out of your training with a solid cooldown that includes walking knee hugs, walking quad stretches, calf openers, leg swings, and other similar exercises.
You can also add in some yoga. The feet up the wall pose can be especially effectively. We’ll talk more about it in a bit.
Refuel After a Run
Eat a well-balanced meal 1-2 hours after your run. Eat a healthy meal that packs carbs and protein in a 3-to-1 ratio.
Depending on your fitness goals, aim for a protein intake between 1.4 and 2.4 g per kg a day following protein and athletic performance guidelines. Casein protein supplementation is often the most effective for recovery. If you’re vegan, combine different types of vegetable proteins.
You can supplement your protein for a speedier recovery and take in other essential minerals. This is important to boost your immune system and prevent catching opportunistic infections caused by effects of intense exercise on your immune system.
Don’t Forget About Hydrating
After your cooldown, replenish lost water and electrolytes. You want to drink at least 16 ounces of water with a sports gel or dried fruit or 24 ounces for each pound you lose sweating. Reduce this amount as needed if you hydrate yourself during the run.
Stretch or Walk After Your Run
Roll out your muscles after your workout to reduce soreness and preserve performance. A foam roller can reduce both fatigue and muscle function after a run. It’s inexpensive and easy to use.
Place the roller under your calf while resting your other foot on the ground. Use your hands to keep your hips off the ground and roll from the ankle to below the knee.
Take an Ice Bath for Run Recovery
Ice bath benefits include relief for aching muscles, limiting inflammatory response in your body, and promoting sleep, which your central nervous system needs after a long run. It may also help you cope with stress better and decrease the effects of heat.
And don’t worry—to take an ice bath at home you don’t need to fill your tub with ice cubes. Just take a 10-minute full-body dip in 50-59°F water after your exercises. Use a thermometer to get the temperature right.
If you’ve never taken an ice bath before, immerse only your lower legs the first time to get used to it.
Put Your Feet Up the Wall
Putting your feet up the wall at a 90-degree angle helps with post run recovery by draining lymph and other fluids pooling in your legs. Other benefits include relief for your leg muscles and easy hamstring stretching.
It also slows down breathing and your heart rate, reducing stress. Keep your feet up for 15 to 20 minutes for best results.
Get a Massage
When’s the last time you got a massage? Post race massage for runners relaxes sore muscles and improves circulation. To get all the benefits, you should get a deep tissue massage for runners on the same day as your run.
Ideally, schedule an appointment with a a massage therapist. The next best thing is to do a recovery self massage at home.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep after your run will aid with muscle recovery and help you get in shape for your next running session. Deep sleep is the best sleep for runners. Aim for 8 to 10 hours. More is not necessarily better.
Going to bed earlier is a good idea. Put away all screens one hour before bedtime and ease yourself to sleep with some reading.
What Your Lifestyle Tells You About Your Recovery
At the end of the day, it’s important to pay attention to the signals that your body is sending you. Does your recovery affect in any way your lifestyle?
Do you feel energetic or sluggish? Are you facing running-related ailments and injuries constantly? Then you may have to take it easier.
Running should energize you, not leave you depleted and shrinking away from fun outside the running trail.
Listen to Your Body
Don’t overdo your runs—or your recovery strategies! It’s okay to feel a bit of muscle soreness and fatigue after an intense run. After all, it’s the mark of being a serious runner.
As a recap, here’s a checklist of post run recovery strategies for you to try out:
- Run recovery runs on the same day, or within 24 hours after your main run if you run more than 3 times a week.
- Eat a healthy meal, taking in a 3-to-1 protein to carb ratio.
- Hydrate with electrolytes.
- Take a runners supplement formulated to cover all your needs.
- Stretch or walk after your run.
- Take an ice bath.
- Put your feet up the wall.
- Get a massage or give yourself a post run self massage.
- Get 8-10 hours of deep sleep.
Try different run recovery strategies to find the ones that you enjoy the most. Your body will tell you what works best, so listen to it!
We wish you a speedy recovery for your next run! Because keeping on running and enjoying every mile is what post run recovery is all about, right?