Part of success in running is consistency--the ability to get out there day after day and put in the work. When your legs are so trashed that you have to take unplanned days off, it can impede your progress.
But here's the good news. You can take steps to mitigate post-run soreness, so you can get back to training ASAP.
Eat1 of 10
After a hard session, one of the best ways to jumpstart your recovery is to refuel. For optimal results, athletes should consume a mix of carbs and protein (a good ratio to aim for is four grams of carbs to one gram of protein) within the first 30 minutes after your workout. This 30-minute window is when your muscles are primed to replenish glycogen and nutrients so they can rebuild.
If you skip this recovery meal, your body remains in a state of breakdown, and soreness might last for hours or days later.
Hydrate2 of 10
Our muscles are made up of more than 70 percent water, and a hard workout can leave them pretty parched. If you are dehydrated after a workout, the protein synthesis that rebuilds muscles slows down. Hydration plays a crucial role in digestion and helps your body rapidly absorb key nutrients and rebuild glycogen stores.
If you are planning to run again within the next 12 to 24 hours, be especially diligent: Drink liquids regularly post-workout until your urine is a pale straw yellow.
Foam Roll3 of 10
The foam roller may look like an unassuming cylindrical log, but it holds one of the keys to a quick recovery. Self-myofascial release, otherwise known as foam rolling, is self-massage that helps release muscle tightness or trigger points. When you use the roller post-workout, you aid in the recovery of the muscles.
However, when your legs are really trashed, don't overdo it. Instead, try to break up your rolling time into a few sessions spread throughout the day and keep the total time consistent with past foam rolling sessions.
Legs Up a Wall4 of 10
The official name of this move is viparita karani (inverted in action in Sanskrit). But in English, it's just what it sounds like: Lie on your back and try to get your butt as close to the wall as possible while extending your legs up, perpendicular to the floor.
This inverted pose aids in recovery by draining fluids that have pooled in your legs, while stretching your hamstrings and giving your lower body a rest from supporting your weight. Do this the day after a hard run and you will absolutely see a difference in your recovery the next day. And it doesn't take long--you'll reap the benefits from as little as five minutes in this position, or up to 15 for maximal relaxation and recovery benefits.
Ice Bath5 of 10
While it may not make sense to take an ice bath after every hard run or workout, plunging into a cold (50 to 60 degree) tub after an especially grueling session can help you feel and perform better during your next workout. The biggest benefit of the cold bath is the water pressure that provides a hydrostatic "squeeze" on the legs. This squeeze helps push the fluids that have pooled in your muscles and extremities back into the blood and towards your core. Hopping into a swimming pool, lake or ocean will offer similar benefits.
A soak of 10 to 15 minutes seems to be enough to let the cold water work its magic: decreasing soreness, clearing waste products and reducing inflammation.
Compression Gear6 of 10
The jury is still out on whether compression gear provides performance benefits during exercise, but scientists agree that wearing compression garments after a workout enhances recovery. A recent study found that participants who wore compression clothing after exercising experienced reductions in muscle swelling and perceived muscle pain and blood lactate removal. Unsure of what kind of gear to get? This articleis a good place to start.
Take a Nap7 of 10
I know, I know, having the time to take a nap is likely a luxury for most of us. But it's a valuable tool to have in your recovery arsenal. If your schedule allows, try to put your feet up and take an hour nap. Sleep is crucial to recovery, and a nap after a hard session will go a long way towards helping the body build and repair stressed tissues.
Epsom Salt Bath8 of 10
While it's not as well known as the ice bath, an Epsom Salt bath can provide significant relief to sore muscles. About 60 to 90 minutes before bed, add four cups of Epsom salt to a hot bath and relax in the water for 10 to 15 minutes. The salts help to remove excess toxins from the muscles, and the warm water and relaxation helps your body unwind and prepare for sleep. After drying off, take a few moments to stretch and roll out your muscles with a foam roller before heading to bed.
Sleep9 of 10
A full night's sleep may just be the holy grail of recovery for runn ers. While you are counting sheep, your body is absorbing all of the performance gains made during training. During the third and fourth stages of the sleep cycle, human growth hormone is released, which helps rebuild and repair muscle tissue and helps convert fat to fuel. Without sufficient sleep, the body produces an excess of cortisol, which slows tissue repair and negatively impacts metabolism.
The quality of your sleep matters as much as the quantity--aim to go to bed around the same time each day and set up your bedroom so that it's a dark, cool and quiet place. Many runners swear by those eye masks to help them achieve total darkness and claim that a room at 67 degrees is ideal for extra Zzz's. While most of us will never hit the 10 to 12 hours that elites log, try to get a solid seven to nine hours per night. And as your training increases, tack on an extra 30 minutes a night during peak mileage weeks.