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8 steps to a faster post-run recovery

As soon as you finish a run, start preparing your body for the next one

Recovery starts as soon as your run is done, and the faster you can recover, the sooner you can get out for your next session. No matter if you were doing an easy 5K or a gut-busting interval session, what you do in the minutes and hours afterward is crucial if you want to set yourself up for success for the next day’s session. Follow these steps to become a master at recovery so you can run well and hit your goals all year long.

Active vs. passive recovery: which is best?

Cooldown

Every run should be followed by a cooldown, but exactly how intensive that cooldown is will depend on how intense your run was that day. Even after a short recovery run, you should finish the session with a very light jog or walk for about five or 10 minutes. After a hard interval session, your cooldown will need to be a little longer, since it will take your body longer to come back down “normal” status. Not sure what your cooldown should include? Check out the perfect routine here.

Hydrate

Whether it’s 30 degrees or below zero, re-hydrating after a run is important. You should aim to be drinking water (or an electrolyte beverage) within 10-15 minutes after your run and cooldown are complete. Being properly hydrated maximizes recovery, lowers your risk for cramping and injuries and will help you perform better on your next run.

Stretch

Once your cooldown is done and you’ve drunk some water, take five or 10 minutes to do some active stretching. This doesn’t have to be a full-blown yoga session, but stretching and restoring blood flow to the muscles that likely tightened up during your run will speed up your recovery and keep you feeling loose and comfortable throughout the rest of your day.

Take off your wet clothes

 

As much as you can, try to take your sweaty clothes off as soon as possible after your run, particularly if it’s wet or cold outside. Wet clothing can cool you off too quickly after a run, and by putting on warm, dry clothes, you are keeping your muscles warm to promote recovery and aid in blood circulation. Circulation is important following a run because good blood flow brings much-needed nutrients to your muscles while shuttling waste away.

The dos and don’ts of recovery with physiotherapist Chris Napier

Eat

Many experts argue your post-run nutrition is the most important factor in jump-starting the recovery process. Ideally, you want to eat something within the first 30 minutes after your run that has a good mixture of protein and carbohydrates. Good examples are yogurt with fruit and granola, a smoothie with protein powder, a banana with peanut butter or the runner’s classic, chocolate milk.

If you find it difficult to eat anything substantial immediately after a run, have something small right away, then wait until your stomach settles to have a full meal.

Nap (if you have the time)

Most runners don’t have time in their day to schedule a nap, but after a long run or hard workout, even a quick 15-20 minutes can really ramp up your recovery. If a nap isn’t in the cards for you, make sure you’re getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep most nights. Sleep is the ultimate version of rest and provides your body with the best opportunity to rebuild, repair and recover.

Roll

Photo: Maxine Gravina

Foam rolling immediately after a workout can put more stress on your muscles at a time when you’re trying to get them to relax, but hopping on your foam roller a couple of hours later can really help your legs feel better for your next run.

Why recovery is the key to performance

Stay mobile throughout the day

If you’re running in the morning and then heading to a desk job for the rest of the day, make sure you take a few minutes periodically throughout your day to get up and move around. Sitting for too long after a run can make your body stiffen up, which could set you back before your next run, so get up, do a few light stretches and walk around a bit to keep the blood flowing.