After you've finished your run, whether it's a light training session or a race you've been training for for weeks, make sure you have the following in mind:
1. Warm down
The worst thing you can do after a race is come to a dead stop. Doing a gentle cool down prevents blood from pooling in the extremities, and helps with the removal of waste products and delivery of new blood to your overworked muscles. A light 10-15 minute jog and some gentle stretching will make a huge difference.
2. Don’t miss your window
Eating may be the last thing on your mind after a run, but getting something on board in the twenty minutes after you finish will ensure you take advantage of the key window for refuelling.
A snack or drink containing both carbohydrate and protein is the best mix to kick start the repair process. A recent study in The International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism names chocolate milk as the perfect post-run recovery aid. For more on essential post-run recovery food, click here
3. Rehydration, rehydration, rehydration
Start taking on fluids as soon as you can to replace what you have lost on your run. A sports drink containing some electrolytes is ideal to help you replace those that you have sweated out.
4. Don’t go to sleep… just yet
You may feel like lying on the couch and not moving, but you will actually recover better if you do some light activity for the rest of the day. Some gentle walking and stretching can help keep the blood circulating and help the recovery process along.
5. Compress yourself
Squeezing into some compression gear can improve blood circulation and therefore removal of waste products from your muscles.
6. Refuel… again
You’ve had your recovery snack in the 20 minutes following a run, but you’re not done yet. Within 2-3 hours you need a larger balanced meal. Go for a high-carb meal with moderate amounts of protein and some healthy fats and veggies to reduce inflammation.
Although you’ve earned the right to a bit of a post-race party, don’t stay out too late if you want to optimise recovery. Hitting the hay at a decent time will help your body to produce hormones to help it repair and rebuild. Rest is essential for recovery, so try to get at least 8 hours sleep.
Treat your aching muscles to a sports massage (if available). A DIY option is using a foam roller. Try these foam rolling exercises
9. Get running again
After especially long runs and races don’t jump straight back into your usual training programme, otherwise you will risk illness and injury. However, some light exercise is better than nothing at all. If your legs are particularly sore consider some gentle cross training on the bike or in the pool. Once you feel a little better start doing some light jogging and gradually build your training back up over the next week or so.
10. Treat yourself
Whether it’s a post race glass of wine or a bar of chocolate, rewarding yourself will help you relax and works wonders for motivation. Well done, you deserve it!