Whether you're running to lose weight or to improve your marathon personal best, implementing the right recovery strategies is key. The formula to running success is no mystery—you run, rest, and then run again. Though many runners get training right, most overlook the importance of recovery for increased performance and well being.
Sidestepping recovery has dire consequences. First, it leaves you more susceptible to infections, pain, colds and even injury—not to mention leaving you less motivated for your next session.
If you're looking to improve your running performance while staying injury-free for the long haul, here are five steps to complete running recovery.
Cool Down Right
A proper cool down is the first step toward good recovery practice. Recovery starts at the end of your training session, but most runners make the mistake of stopping on the spot following a workout. Doing so can leave you feeling dizzy and increases fatigue and muscle soreness afterwards. Completing a proper cool down helps you prevent much of the trouble, and speeds your recovery rate so you can enjoy better performance during your next run.
Make sure to keep going rather than stopping abruptly after a hard run. To cool down right, gradually bring down your running pace to an effortless jog for several minutes, followed by a light stretching routine.
If you regularly skip post-run stretching, you can run the risk of long-term damage. When you run, your muscles contract repeatedly over a prolonged time so the fibers end up tight and rigid. If you don't restore them to their normal resting length, you wind up feeling tight and sore on your next run.
Over time, neglecting the post-run stretch can lead to length loss in muscle fibers, causing long-term damage through a process known as adaptive shortening.
Ideally, you should stretch your hip flexors, hamstrings, calves and lower back. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and breathe deeply when executing each pose to release any tightness or built-up tension.
Eat for Recovery
It's evident that what you eat has a big impact on your performance and energy level, but getting the right balance of nutrients following a run is a major key to proper recovery. The sooner and quicker you supply your body with the right nutrients, the quicker you'll be able to replenish your energy tank, repair muscle damage, and be ready for the next workout.
So what should be on the post-run menu? The two main components of recovery nutrition are carbohydrates and protein. Carbs help you replenish your empty tank while protein provides your body with the essential amino acids needed for the muscle rebuilding process. Research demonstrates that taking the two components together yields maximum recovery results.