How to recover after long runs: the four most important things to do post-run
Completed your run and ready to rest? From stretching to refuelling, we’ve got you covered for the ultimate post-run recovery.
Running is a high-impact form of exercise. Whether a 5K sprinter or in it for long distances, running works your leg, arm, core and ab muscles, as well as your respiratory system. This can be a strain on your body, and therefore recovery post-run is essential.
By stretching out, refuelling and resting properly, you will avoid any pains or injuries so you can get back running once again when you are ready and enhance your future performance. Here at The Recommended, we've got you covered with some top tips on how to recover post-run.
1. Cool down and stretch
Make sure to warm down post-run. This means controlling your breathing to let your heart rate come down naturally and gradually and stretching to avoid tight muscles and any unnecessary injuries. Lunges, quad, hamstring and hip flexor stretches are recommended.
The best post-run stretches:
- Hamstring stretch: Lay on your back with your feet planted in front of you. Raise your right leg towards you and hold on to the back of it with both hands, fingers interlocked. Exhale as you slowly encourage your leg towards you. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs.
- Standing Quad Stretch: Start in a standing position with your feet together. Raise your right foot up from the ground and grab it with your right hand. Keep your knees as close together as possible. Gently pull your heel towards your glutes. Hold for 20–30 seconds. Switch to the other leg.
- Figure-Four Hip Flexor Stretch: Lay on the floor with your feet planted in front of you and your knees bent. Bring your left foot over your right knee, with your left knee bending outwards. Gently raise your right leg off the ground towards you. Hold onto the back of your right thigh. Exhale and gently draw your thigh towards you. Hold for 15–30 seconds before changing legs.
2. Rehydrate and refuel
Post-race hydrating and fuelling are advised to maximise your recovery, providing essential nutrients to your body. Asics suggests to ‘reward yourself with lots of water to replace what you lost. Water will also decrease your muscle inflammation and rid your body of toxins released by your muscles during the race.’
It is also recommended to eat quite soon after your run, preferably within the 30-minute to one-hour window post-run. This will restore, rebuild and replenish glycogen (your body’s main source of energy) in your muscles. Aim for foods with complex carbohydrates and proteins to up glycogen levels and build up muscle.
More like this
Sports brand On gives some examples of what to eat post-run. They recommend Greek yoghurt ‘because it packs a lot of protein and is a source of calcium too’, a handful of nuts ‘to start the recovery process with a healthy blend of protein, fat and salt’, chocolate milk as ‘it has the ideal amount of carbohydrates and protein for replenishing glycogen levels’, and chicken breast or salmon as they are both sources of lean protein.
3. Massage your muscles
Massage is important post-run to relieve and soothe any aches and pains in your body, helping to speed up recovery and keep a strong running form and performance.
Foam rollers are great for doing the trick, rolling out any muscular tension after running and improving flexibility and range of movement. Check out our guide to the best foam rollers with advice from top physiotherapists. Our favourites include the Pulseroll vibrating foam roller, which combines pressure and vibration to gently warm your muscles.
You can also invest in a massage gun to help reduce muscle pain, improve circulation and prevent muscle fatigue. Check out our buyer's guide to the best massage guns to find the right one for you, ideal to use in the comfort of your own home, and read some top advice from our fitness expert to learn how to use them.
There's always treating yourself to a sports massage too. There are different types available to choose from, such as a Swedish massage which encourages circulation in the body and a state of relaxation, a trigger-point massage which targets painful areas, restores muscle and increases flexibility, and also general sports and deep tissue massages, stretching and supporting the body to address specific conditions and reduce inflammation.
Don’t forget the power of sleep in everyday life, which has strong benefits to enhance your running performance and recovery. A good night’s sleep allows your body to restore its energy levels and focus on muscle and tissue repair.
Think about creating a dark, cool and calm environment for optimum sleeping conditions, and consider some different sleeping aid gadgets to help you drift off. Why not try a white noise machine to block out distracting noises and aid relaxation - we've rounded up some of our favourites in our buyer's guide for the best white noise machines. We've also picked out some of the best light alarm clocks to help create a more natural, consistent sleep cycle and the best eye masks to help keep light out.
Bupa, one of the UK’s leading healthcare specialists, also stresses the importance of sleep on your heart health, explaining that ‘when you sleep, your heart rate and blood pressure naturally drop, to allow your heart to rest and recover.’ A rested heart and body will prevent fatigue, ill health and injury, increasing your overall running performance.
Want more guidance and tips on well-being and fitness? Check out our wellness and fitness sections, with guides including yoga vs pilates, posture tips, and the best multi-gym equipment for working out at home.
Cordelia Aspinall is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media, working across brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeForMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. She has previously worked and written for digital publications including Condé Nast Traveller, The Evening Standard, Cosmopolitan, and several other lifestyle brands.