These Are the 6 Best Ways to Recover After You Run

Sport & Activity

Avoid overuse injuries and strains by committing to your post-run recovery.

Last updated: 20 May 2022
6 min read
Follow These 6 Recovery Tips After Running

Running performance improves when you train consistently. But consistent running requires effective recovery between sessions, whether you're training for a marathon or are new to running. Otherwise, you're at risk of overtraining and the overuse injuries that come along with it.

Use these running recovery tips after every run to prevent injury and stay on top of your running routine, to get the results you deserve.

Why Is Post-Run Recovery So Important?

Many runners think that more is better when it comes to running. Being consistent is a key component of running success. But if you want to improve your performance and reach the finishing line injury-free, you've got to take the time to recover.

As noted in a 2009 study published in Sports Health, up to 70 percent of runners sustain an overuse injury each year. These injuries, like runner's knee, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints or plantar fasciitis, are caused by repetitive strain. They're preventable injuries that happen when you're training too much without allowing your body to recover.

Running is a high-impact sport that takes its toll on your body. Your muscles are working hard to keep you moving, whilst absorbing the impact of your body hitting the ground with each stride. Long-distance and marathon running can be particularly tough on the body. Simply because your body is working harder, for longer.

Running causes muscle damage and strain. Muscle damage, combined with glycogen depletion, leads to inflammation. A study published in 2016 in the Sports Medicine Open journal found that marathon runners have increased markers of inflammation post-marathon. In fact, they found a dose-dependent relationship. This means the more miles run, the higher the levels of inflammation.

Muscle damage and inflammation might seem a cause for concern, but it's a normal physiological response to strenuous activity. It's something your body is able to repair post-run, assuming you get the recovery time you need.

Evidence-Based Ways to Recover After a Run

  1. 1.Rehydrate and Replenish

    When you exercise, your body's core temperature increases. Sweat occurs, as a response, which causes fluid and mineral loss. A study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that basketball players lost up to approximately 4599ml of sweat during a 40-minute game. The average playtime was just 21 minutes. Basketball is a high-intensity sport, but the findings give a helpful insight into fluid loss during exercise.

    A study published in 2019 conducted on marathon runners reported significant fluid and sodium volume losses. The average salt loss was 2.3 grams, but some lost as much as seven grams during the race. The average fluid loss was 2.5 litres.

    No matter what your workout is, it's vital to rehydrate and replenish your electrolytes. Often, we remember to rehydrate with water. But we forget to replenish lost electrolytes. You can drink an electrolyte sports drink, coconut water or simply add a teaspoon of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon to your water after a workout.

    Staying hydrated can help runners accelerate recovery. It helps your body digest essential nutrients, repair muscle, and replace fluid and minerals that have been lost during a run.

  2. 2.Carb Up

    Glycogens are stored carbohydrates that are broken down and used as the main source of fuel during a run. A 2018 study published in Nutrition Reviews found that after 45 minutes of exercise, glycogen stores begin to deplete. The longer you run, the more glycogen is depleted.

    In fact, a 2010 study published in PLoS Computational Biology found that glycogen depletion is the main factor that limits performance for more than 40 percent of marathon runners. It won't just affect a runner's performance during the run, it'll also affect your post-marathon recovery.

    Eating a high-carb meal after a run will refuel your glycogen stores. When you eat carbs post-run, your blood sugar levels, as well as the concentration of insulin in your blood, increase. This maximises glycogen resynthesis, which aids in muscle repair.

  3. 3.Foam Roll

    Your muscles and tissues are covered with a thin sheet-like substance called the fascia. After a long run, your fascia becomes tight and rigid. This affects your joint range of motion (ROM) and worsens symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

    Foam rolling post-run has been shown to speed up recovery by causing the myofascial release. Myofascial release is the smoothing out and releasing of your fascia. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that foam rolling helps to improve joint ROM, enhance exercise performance and accelerate recovery.

    Grab a foam roller and use it for five to 10 minutes before and after a run, to release fascial tension before your workout. The best area to focus on is the lower body. Try sitting on it to roll out each leg, paying extra attention to the glutes, quads and calves.

  4. 4.Stretch It Out

    Taking some time at the end of each run to cool down and stretch is beneficial for all runners. A cool-down can be as simple as a walk or low-intensity movement for five minutes, to slowly reduce your heart rate. Stretching can help you stay injury-free via two main mechanisms:

    1. Stretching can increase range of motion (ROM).
    2. Stretching can increase blood flow.

    Studies show that tight muscles with a restricted ROM negatively impact the running economy and can lead to injuries. Stretching to increase blood flow can speed up recovery by helping to filter out lactic acid. A build-up of lactic acid, a metabolic by-product, is associated with muscle soreness, swelling and a burning sensation.

    Don't miss 8 Warm-Up Exercises to Prepare for Your Workout!

  5. 5.Sleep More and Better

    If you're not getting enough quality sleep, your body won't be able to recover properly. The majority of muscle repair and recovery occurs during sleep, so without it, you will not reach your fullest potential as a runner.

    A study published in the 2011 edition of Medical Hypotheses examined the hormonal changes that occur as a result of sleep deprivation. Researchers found that a lack of sleep causes a spike in cortisol (a stress hormone) and a reduction of testosterone and an insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), two anabolic hormones essential for recovery. This combination greatly impairs recovery.

    In a study of sleep-deprived athletes, researchers found that their average and total sprint times notably decreased. Another study found sleep deprivation delayed reaction time, as well as accuracy and endurance. Whether you're sprinting or running a marathon, your performance and recovery will be affected by how much—and how well—you sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

  6. 6.Eat a High-Protein Meal

    Add some protein along with your carbohydrates. Protein contains amino acids that help prevent muscle protein breakdown and to initiate synthesis.

    Protein sources can either be complete or incomplete, regarding how many essential amino acids it contains. Opt for complete sources of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. This includes:

    • Fish
    • Poultry
    • Eggs
    • Beef
    • Dairy
    • Tofu
    • Edamame
    • Tempeh
Follow These 6 Recovery Tips After Running

Nutrition Tips to Maximise Your Training

Get more free nutrition tips and expert guidance to strengthen your body and mind.

Originally published: 6 January 2022