We're all guilty of it. We get back from a long run, feeling high on endorphins, take a sip of water, and then head upstairs to shower and move on with our day. End of run.
But what should we be doing to take care of our bodies after a long run? As race season approaches, the long runs are going to start to increase, and the longer we go, the more important recovery is going to be. We are going to discuss three important things to do following a long run.
Eating the right foods at the right time
As a general rule of thumb, I encourage my runners to eat within 60 minutes of a long run. It does NOT need to be a full meal, just a snack will do. A combination of carbohydrates and protein is ideal, and research shows a ratio of 3:1 (carbs:protein) is best for skeletal muscle protein synthesis. This can include things such as:
- Banana with peanut butter
- An egg on toast
- Yogurt and granola
- Fruit smoothie
I can't stress enough the importance of working with a sports dietician to find out what your body specifically needs based on your body type, exercise demands, etc.
Depending on the distance and intensity of your run, as well as the temperature outside, water might be sufficient to rehydrate. As your intensity levels and energy demand goes up, or the temperature increases, it may be time to start thinking of adding in some electrolytes to replenish what was lost through sweating. I tend to recommend electrolyte packets or tablets, such as Nuun brand, as it doesn't contain all the extra sugars of a sports drink.
The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 16-24oz of water per pound of bodyweight lost during exercise. The amount you lose each run will change with all of the variables mentioned above (exercise intensity, temperature, duration, etc). To get a general idea, weigh yourself before and after a run to see how much you sweat out. If you lost 1 lb of body weight during your run, you would need to drink 16-24oz afterwards.
Soft tissue work
Here is where I start to lose people. Most runners will drink water and eat food, but how many of you are actually doing stretches and soft tissue work following a run? I'm guilty too! I have never been a huge fan of static stretching; both personally and as a physical therapist. Instead, I usually recommend runners use a lacrosse ball or baseball for soft-tissue mobilization. Here are three exercises you can do following a run to help speed recovery and prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) by improving muscle extensibility and increasing bloodflow to the tissues. Perform each one for 2 minutes each on both legs.
With the proper nutrition, hydration and soft tissue work, you're going to set yourself up for success both for the rest of the day and for the next workout. We demand a lot out of our body on these long runs; we need to show it some love so we can keep doing the things we enjoy for decades to come.
About Michele Mannino
Michele is RunVermont's new 5K/10K Rdy2Run Coach and is the owner of Summit Physical Therapy in Stowe, VT where she specializes in working with runners, bikers and other outdoor athletes. She is a native Vermonter who grew up playing soccer and sprinting for her high school track and field team. She began distance running in college and has loved it ever since. Currently she competes in races ranging from 5ks to marathons and is a certified run coach through the RRCA. She enjoys working with runners of all abilities and experience levels. She is a big supporter of RunVermont and has competed in the Vermont City Marathon several times from 5-person relay to full marathon, as well as the Half Marathon Unplugged.
"I love working with runners because they are so dedicated and passionate about what they do. The sense of accomplishment after a race is unlike any other sport; even if the run didn't feel great, you're still smiling afterwards."
If you're running the Relay of the M&T Bank Vermont City Marathon& Relay, Michele is your coach! Sign up to train with her through Rdy2Run here.