So many runners struggle with optimal muscle recovery after long runs and speed or hill workouts. But tweaking just a few elements of your post and pre run routine can make a huge difference to maximize your recovery and minimize your chance of injury!
Five Tips for Optimal Muscle Recovery for Runners
Nutrition is always a contentious subject, and I want to make very clear that I am not a RD or even a nutritionist. But I hope that you all will not begrudge me the opportunity to say a few words on nutrition, and please feel free to add to the conversation in the comments. I am going to be brief, but I have a few tips I’d like to offer up for the peanut gallery.
A great alternative fuel that you may not have tried: ginger chews and peppermints. I like Chimes and also GinGins by the Ginger Bros (especially the apple) and there are a few other brands out there that are great. Ginger is a great stomach soother, and I generally chew on one about 20 minutes before I head out for a long run as well as take some with me. Sugar, chewy, and stomach soothing. Peppermint has similar properties, plus I like to have a different textural option. See this post for more about my favorite fuels.
I mentioned this in my “Fueling up without getting Fed Up” post on marathon training eating and nutrition, but I highly recommend that you don’t gorge–spread out your macros and nutrients throughout the day for better absorption. As I discussed on Wednesday and has become increasingly widespread knowledge of late, only about 15-20g of protein at a time for protein synthesis. This is the NASM compendium of articles on protein, if you are interested. Don’t just get in protein, however: you also need fats, fiber, sugar, salt, carbs, all the good stuff. My sweet and savory oats are a great option, as is the copycat cherry limeade smoothie.
One of my favorite post long run meals? Egg white omelet with veggies and avocado, fruit, and original English Muffin with some jam. Aka either the Carl’s Cool Creation (which also adds chicken and marinara to the eggs) or the Heartland (just veggies) or the Ironman at Yolk (avocado and veggie omelet).
Hydration and Electrolytes
The margarita is the perfect hydration drink. But seriously, hydration is a serious matter, and we all know that we should hydrate. But what often trips people up is the fact that hydration should happen throughout the day and throughout the week. Not just only on your long run. Otherwise, my friend, you will be uncomfortable. Also, salt. For runners and heavy sweaters, salt is not necessarily the enemy that it is to greater America.
I lightly salt just about everything that I consume: from my morning English Muffin before my run to my ice cream at night. You don’t need much–I like to use a salt grinder and just tape it over top (the residual will fall down). Salted watermelon is another great option! Sports drinks are ok, but they are not the answer. Go for real sea salt over sugary salty drinks.
To be clear, I am not telling you to add a packet of salt to everything. And, again, if you have any sort of sodium issues, please consult a doctor.
Starbucks Frappuccino with Protein. Most Sbux’s carry protein for the smoothies, just have them add it. Get it after your next race as a treat and you are getting water, sugar, protein, carbs, and caffeine (unless you get decaf) which some studies have shown to improve recovery. Add cinnamon for a kick and extra anti-inflammatories, but know that you are going to need a decent amount to make a difference!
As many are currently discussing (see Laura and Erica) ice baths, the love it or hate it recovery technique, has now been shown to have questionable effectiveness. Another (far more pleasant) option? A warm Epsom Salt bath. Here is a page discussing Epsom Salt, but keep in mind the source. So take it with a grain of salt, if you will. yukyuk
Icy Hot? That is more if it makes you feel better. It is entirely superficial comfort, unless you then proceed to massage out your muscles as you apply.
(Passive) Dry Methods
Some other options for quick (and dry) muscle recovery/preventing DOMS and such: Legs up the Wall pose and Compression Sleeves
Legs up the Wall pose has long been a favorite of mine. It has the same idea as compression: to redistribute blood flow and to keep blood from pooling in your lower (and much more tired) limbs.
And, we know that friends who Legs up the Wall Together Stay together. (ps, only about 15 minutes of doing this is necessary).
A while ago, (I can’t quote anyone on this because I don’t remember who told me!) I heard that compression sleeves were better for running and the socks better for after. Now, I don’t know if that is true, but it is something that I do generally adhere to, when/if I do wear compression while running, which I try not to do. I personally prefer it that way, regardless, because of the ventilation that the sleeves offer (and the ability to use socks that support my arches and such). Afterwards, I love my compression socks for the aforementioned reasons. But the sleeves can go a bit more incognito.
Something you might not know, and again, I’m sorry but you are going to have to take my word on it, but you don’t really need to wear compression at night unless you sleep on an angle because the bloodflow is already being re-distributed.
(Active) Dry Methods
Massage is excellent, and we know the beauty of the foam roller. If not, I’m simply going to tell you to google it.
Something I do want to reiterate, as I mentioned in my Blogfest Top Ten Takeaways post, is that you might find that the best place to roll out is not necessarily the one that you feel the most: I recommend starting at the glutes and then working your way down. Oftentimes, it is our glutes getting us into trouble. Releasing those suckers can be massively beneficial before and after your run. Also, make sure to work in multiple directions. Roll up and down, and then twist your body back and forth (with the roller static) then hold the muscle and roller still and activate the nearest joint.
I am going to do a post on glute activation and release soon.
Also, get a husband/spouse.
And Last but Not Least:
Flats Friday! Well, technically this happens beforehand, but eh, we’ll count it!Optimal Muscle Recovery. Runners need it, how to get it #runchat #fitfluential #sweatpink #marathontraining @suzlyfe Click To Tweet
Have a great weekend, my friends, and recover well!
Tell me an obscure or little known recovery technique that works for you!
What are you up to this weekend?