Thursday, July 21, 2011

Recover Better To Run Better

On Saturday I ran one of my favorite races, the Wild Iris 21K Trail Race, a challenging race that winds through the foothills of the Wind River Mountains. It’s full of steep climbs and descents which thoroughly trashes a runner’s legs.  After a race like that all I want to do is drink diet coke, eat cinnamon rolls, and lay around the house for days watching TV.  If I didn’t know any better I might end up doing that, however I do know better.  I’ve learned that recovering from a run is just as important as every other aspect of running. 

So what did I really do after the race? I sat in a bathtub full of ice water, drank coconut water, ate a turkey burger, and forced my sore body to get up and go for a walk. Later I pulled on compression tights and went to bed early. I know that doesn’t sound near as fun as lying in bed eating cinnamon rolls, but it was worth it.   

You may be thinking, “Awkward,” as you read about my “post-race” routine, but that’s ok.  After reading this you too may decide to sit in an ice bath or drink coconut water.

The act of running actually breaks your body down.  It depletes your energy, dehydrates your body, and inflames your muscles.  The benefits you get from running come as your body recovers from running. This is why doing the right things AFTER you run is so important. Here’s what your body needs after that hard run. 

You need to refuel and rehydrate within the first 30 minutes. Eating something with a 4:1 carbs to protein ratio is ideal. Drink water or something with electrolytes such as Propel or coconut water. Coconut water is loaded with potassium which will reduce muscle soreness and cramping. Within the first hour after your run try an ice bath. It constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown.

Next, you need to keep moving. Laying around for the rest of the day will only make you more sore later, while walking forces oxygen rich blood to all those sore muscles aiding in their repair. Sleep is also vital to your body’s ability to repair itself, so go to bed a little early. 

Over the next few days you’ll want to massage and stretch your sore muscles.  Tools such as a foam roller or a massage stick can help with loosening up tight muscles and increasing flexibility.  Athletic stores carry these items, and they are worth investing in. Compression tights also speed your recovery time by increasing circulation and reducing inflammation.  A few brands to check out are CWX, 2XU, and SLS3. 

Beyond that, the most important thing is to listen to your body and treat it well.  If you’re extra tired and sore walk for a few days instead of running.  Eat nutrient dense foods, drink plenty of water, and get good rest. Well, those are all of the Personal Trainer’s orders for today. Enjoy that ice bath!


  1. Darn internet connection! Try number two...

    I'm not sure science agrees, but I really like a beer during my post-run shower. I never want to eat, but it gives me some carbohydrates, and it's still hydrating. I know there's a point at which beer is dehydrating, but there's a reason it tastes REALLY GOOD after manual labor.

  2. I totally agree! Actually beer can be a great recovery drink. Full of carbs that the body soaks right up and actually your body metabolizes the alcohol much faster after exercise. Obviously, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th beer only leads to dehydration and excess calories, but in moderation it's great