When you’re training for a race, it seems like your whole life revolves around the long run. Preparing for the long run, staying in on a Friday night because you’ve got a long run the next morning, eating all the time because you’re so hungry from all the miles you’ve been running, getting up early so you don’t waste the whole day on your long run…
Sounds fun, right?!
So the last thing you want to do when you get home from the long run is MORE work! But there are a few easy (and essential) things you can do to help your body recover and be ready to go for the next week of training.
You were hoping we would say this, weren’t you? Although you may not feel super hungry after you finish, within 30-45 minutes be sure to eat a small meal with a mix of carbohydrates and protein. Avoid the urge to just eat ALL THE CARBS. Your beat up muscles need some protein, too. Our favorite post-run meals are an omelette with some veggies (and maybe ham or sausage if you’re feeling adventurous), peanut butter and banana toast, or – if you’re pinched for time – low-fat chocolate milk and a Picky Bar or Clif Bar.
A few hours later, you’ll probably be hungry enough for a heartier meal, so enjoy!
Even if it’s cold out when you’re out for your run, your body is still losing fluid. Make sure to drink a lot of water throughout the day following your long run. Did you know that water doesn’t just help keep you hydrated – it helps deliver nutrients to your muscles, too! So being well-hydrated helps your body get the most out of that yummy post-run meal.
Post-run is a great time for some static stretching because your muscles are warm and elastic, and you can really relax into a deep stretch. It’s a lot easier to stretch right after your run than it will be later, when you’ve had a few hours to cool down and tighten up – so take 10-15 minutes after you get back for this important part of recovery!
TAKE A NAP (but not immediately)
Make sure you’re taking the time post-run to stretch, eat, hydrate, and cool down a bit. A post-run nap is one of the simple pleasures in life – but it won’t feel that way if you wake up and can barely move! If you’re not taking enough time to recover, your muscles will tighten up pretty quickly during your nap and make you a cranky customer when you wake up.
Don’t force yourself to nap if you’re not a napper – but make sure to remember the importance of sleep when you’re training!
Especially if this is your first time training for a long distance event, take a few minutes to check in with yourself mentally. Did you just finish the longest run of your life? Pat yourself on the back! Did your run not go as planned? Figure out why so you can fix it for the next time – maybe you didn’t bring enough fuel or water. Or you had one too many glasses of wine the night before. Or maybe it just wasn’t your day – that happens sometimes, too! Remember that running is a physical AND mental pursuit.