Five Tips for Optimal Muscle Recovery for Runners

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!

Linking up with Fitness Friday and the Friday Five!

Five Tips for Optimal Muscle Recovery for Runners

This tips for optimal muscle recovery will help you get the most from your pre and post run routine so that you can bounce back for the next long run or workout!

Runner’s Nutrition

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.

Ginger Chew Right Before

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).

(on the left) Ironman

(on the left) Ironman

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.

protein frappuccino suzlyfe

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!

Wet Recovery

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.

t marathon erica susie legs up wall


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

A gentle yoga practice has been really beneficial for me. I highly recommend Sun A and Sun B (See my Yoga Clinic!).

Suzlyfe common yoga mistakes clinic

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. 

alex massage team challenge

He is my minion. Like Despicable Me but less prone to wearing overalls. But he does tend to speak gibberish.

And Last but Not Least:

flatsfriday 1 collage suzlyfe

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!This tips for optimal muscle recovery will help you get the most from your pre and post run routine so that you can bounce back for the next long run or workout!

Tell me an obscure or little known recovery technique that works for you!

What are you up to this weekend?

  1. Speaking of muscle recovery, I’m currently writing this comment to you from bed in Legs Up Wall pose. Because Hansons. I couldn’t agree more with salt. Especially this summer. I’ve taken to popping S-Caps which are saving me from peril. I also like to take ice baths when the runs get long and my legs turn to mush. The suck. But I believe they’re worth it. Cute MK flats! πŸ™‚
    Run Colby run recently posted…Running, Relaxing and Wellfleeting.My Profile

    • What is this sleep you speak of?? JK I need so much sleep. And you and your tongues, you dirty girl ;D

  2. haha “also, get a husband/spouse.” i’m going to start telling people i’m dating with the sole intention of having an ever-ready masseuse, thanks for that tip. and yeah i was one of the “in the dark about Fresca” girls for sure. i don’t really drink soda but i used to love Fresca. using it as a mixer sounds clutch! get those cocktails up, girl! i actually used to make fake skinny sangria with fresca and lots of fruit. yum.
    Shawna recently posted…Thinking out LoudMy Profile

  3. Looks like we were thinking in the same direction today. I LOVE Fresca and peach is one of my favorites. I love peach anything. I tried to avoid artificial sweeteners during pregnancy but now it is back in my routine as is caffeine (I’m shaking from my coffee as I type this!).
    Sarah recently posted…My Favorite Injury Prevention AccessoriesMy Profile

  4. OR you could just be haphazard like me and run, then lie on the couch. Actually, I do have a delicious protein smoothie afterwards but I am awful about any kind of stretching or foam rolling. Whoops.

    I did not know about this protein at Starbucks. Is it whey? If so then BOO ON THEM.
    Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job recently posted…Five Things Friday #52My Profile

    • It is whey I believe but you can also bring in your own, if I remember correctly. I’ve gotten pretty bad about doing my work after runs because of coaching, honestly! I’m always standing around answering questions!

    • The Chimes I’ve seen in kind of random places–whole foods and world market tend to have them. The GinGins also pop up all over, but they are more mainstream.

  5. Suze!! These are such great tips; you ROCK! I’ve been running for over 20 years, and I’m still learning things all the time; thanks so much for sharing all of these. I am a regular customer (unfortunately for my wallet) of Starbucks and I had no idea about the protein – good grief! I wonder how many times I’ve thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if I could get a little extra protein in here?” Sheesh. Also, thanks for the link to your post on fueling up; so much goodness. I think I’m going to start playing around with macros to see what I can come up with; have started reading some other posts about this, and I think it’s worth investigating. Thank you! Hope you have a great weekend!
    Tara @ Running ‘N’ Reading recently posted…Everybody Rise by Stephanie CliffordMy Profile

    • Happy to help! I’m a big believer in spreading macros around the day–it has made a HUGE difference for me.

  6. I need a LOT of salt, especially as the daughter of someone with Addison’s disease (aka my mom has extremely low sodium levels) so I always add it to my baked potatoes at night, try to eat saltier snacks, and opt for an everything bagel in the morning. I can tell when it gets too low. I do need to be better about other recovery tactics though now that my mileage is creeping up again. I should probably start doing the legs up on the wall thing…
    Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…TOL: One Week!My Profile

    • I really have been slacking myself on just about everything but my nutrition. At least the two of us have that down, right? ;D

  7. Love these tips! Foam rolling is so important for everyone, no matter what exercise they decide to engage in! WHat an awesome tip with the ginger chews, I’m obessed with ginger it helps my tummy so much! I haven’t tried the protein at the Bux but great to know that’s an option!!
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors recently posted…Cardio Plank WorkoutMy Profile

  8. LOVE this post! I swear by legs up the wall and Epsom salts baths. Oh, and yes, a husband works nicely. LOL I didn’t know Starbucks offered protein?? I will def have to try this out next time I visit for a treat. I have not even heard of ginger chews. I like ginger flavor and the stomach calming properties sound promising…Thanks for sharing that info! For me I drink tart cherry juice and it seems to really help with inflammation naturally. I don’t take IBU for muscle soreness at all so I think it works! Have a beautiful weekend!
    Jess @ Flying Feet recently posted…Friday FIVE Speed Racer & Thank You!! πŸ™‚My Profile

  9. Love this post. I am a foam rolling, yoga compression wearing fool. I’ve also been doing more active recovery days and it has been helping so much. Also, my doctor has me on magnesium supplements and a joint supplement (holistic with ginger and turmeric) for inflammation. It works!

    • Ginger is the gift that keeps on giving! And thank you for mentioning that you were doing so at the advice of a doctor!

  10. I wish this post had been written days ago. I did a killer stair repeats workout on Tuesday and my legs are still sore. Holy crap. Lesson learned for next time though!

    I’ve heard tart cherry juice helps a lot too, which is great news because I actually like it, unlike the other things they suggest drinking (apple cider vinegar? GAG. No). I’ve been trying the legs on the wall pose here and there for a couple weeks. I haven’t been trying it long enough to know if it’s working or not, but it sure does feel great!
    Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor recently posted…Vacation Photo Diary, Part IMy Profile

    • Hahahahaha sorry! Next time? And legs up the wall is just fun. Plus, you can do things while doing it. Hope you are back to walking soon!

  11. Girl you know I’m in my compression socks today sipping my amino acids! I’ve been trying to be REALLY good about recovery this half cycle because my plan is a lot more intense than last time. I’m rolling, stretching, yoga-ing, drinking, compressing every chance I get!
    Gretchen | Gretchruns recently posted…Top Five Friday #23My Profile

  12. I still pretend I don’t need to do anything post-run. Like maybe I’ll stretch for five minutes or ice for five minutes and but other than that I’m not following any kind of re-fuel diet. And I don’t fuel during my runs because I’m nervous about my stomach. HELP ME I’M SO BAD AT THIS! πŸ˜‰
    Lauren @ ihadabiglunch recently posted…Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish MarketMy Profile

    • You need to fuel now so that you can figure it out. Don’t be nervous–I’ve gone the nervous route before and then totally bonked. So pick an 8 miler or something, try it out, and move on!

  13. I am awful with recovery. I basically do nothing. High five self! The only thing I want after a hard run is a carbonated drink. I have weaned myself mostly from coke zero/diet coke to seltzer but something about the bubbles I crave! I might have to try those ginger chews – now that my gut is acting better on runs I need to start to reintroduce fuel (everything even 10+ milers are fasted and without fuel at the moment, baby steps!).
    Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat recently posted…A Little ‘Crohn’s Life’ UpdateMy Profile

    • I know the struggle–it can be scary to work back into those things! Try the ginger, it’s a good starting point.

  14. WheRe Can I get one of these ‘husbands’ you speak of?!?!
    I ice bathed once. Never again! I’m traumatized. But I would like to try an Epsom bath at some point. Maybe now? Since I’m injured!
    Jill recently posted…The State of My LegMy Profile

    • Thank you so much! That really means a lot to me that you said that! And get on that plan–it’s a little pricey, but some things are worth the investment, right?

  15. You’ve totally got recovery covered. Ice baths? Just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Massage and compression please.

    Have a fantastic weekend!

    • If you already know that you have blood pressure problems, you need to be regulating your salt and fluid intakes. SO important.

  16. Great tips, Suz! And your’e right about sleeves/socks–socks are better for recovery if you’re going to sit around with your feet below your heart because they offer compression through the ankles and feet, otherwise you can get swelling in the feet and ankles if you wear sleeves. πŸ™‚ You’ve done a really great job of comprehensively putting together lots of different recovery strategies. Thanks! πŸ˜€
    Beth @ Running with the Sunrise recently posted…Five Friday Faves #45My Profile

    • Yes, I feel like I just got the biggest stamp of approval ever and it makes me sooooo happy πŸ˜€

  17. a partner that massages you- i need that!! i try to get my parents to do it, but they, just can’t! ? :'( i knew some but not all of the tips- thank you suz πŸ˜€ i need to do legs up the wall more!!

  18. Salt on ice cream is brilliant, I’ve tried it. Also, have you put a really good EVOO on a really good vanilla bean ice cream? do that

  19. I wish I could go to Starbucks after EVERY workout πŸ™‚ I’d definiteyl love that!! I am glad you mentioned the salt thing…I am a sweater! And I teach fitness classes 4 days a week in addition to my workouts so I sweat a lot and naturally add pink Himalayan salt to almost every meal and my family thinks I’m nuts…they tell me to cut back…nope it’s what my body needs!