What Should Runners Really Do Post Long Run?
Check. The long run is done. But there is still a laundry list of other things runners should be doing in the minutes and hours post long run.
Sure we know we need to stretch. We also know—and can’t wait for—that post-run snack. And how about an after run nap?
We hear the importance of things like cooling down, foam rolling and hitting the showers right away. But what should we really be doing post long run?
The Most Important Things To Do After A Long Run
There are some things runner must do after a long run. There are also thing runners can do in the hours after, but are not as important.
It pays to know what these are to prevent injury and promote recovery.
Interestingly enough, the first thing to do post long run isn’t to stretch. The most important thing to do is to eat.
Yes, we said to eat.
Sure we are fueling up on our sports nutrition like gels or chews and hydrating during the long run. But the first thing runners really need to do post-run is to refuel the body immediately.
Within the first five minutes, runners should each for that post long run snack. Think carbs and protein.
Snacks like a banana or berries are all good things to have on hand. If running far from home, have these packed in your car or running belt. The easiest go-to option would be a protein bar just to hold the runner over until they are home to have a full meal.
If the long run ends at home, have a protein shake or glass of chocolate milk.
Other Important Things To Do Post Run
The second most important thing to do is to continue to hydrate. Drink water and electrolytes (16 to 32 oz) within 30-minutes after completing the run. Continue to keep hydrating the remainder of the day.
Then it’s time to stretch.
Before the run is time for a dynamic warm up to get the muscles ready and warm. But after is all about those static stretches.
Drop down and touch your toes. Reach for the right foot and hold, repeat on the left. Continue with all those common stretches like a hip-flexor stretch in a line and hamstring stretch with foot lifted behind the glutes.
After stretching, elevate the legs. Raise them up and lean them against a wall. This is to prevent soreness by increasing blood flow to help get the lactic acid out.
Now it’s time to hit the showers. Get out of sweaty, wet clothes and into a fresh outfit. Nothing feels better than cool water after working up a sweat.
Once fresh and clean, it’s time to eat. This time a whole, well-balanced meal. The meal should consist of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. This includes olive oil, nuts, chia seeds, fatty fish, and avocados.
Then is a good time to rest and recover. So take a nap if able to. If not, do something relaxing such as reading a book. Give the muscles time to rest.
Within 12 hours the long run, move around again. Go for a walk around the mall or foam roll, or do some yoga. This avoids being sore and stiff. The idea is to stay loose and mobile.
Timeline of Things To Do Post-Run
- Refuel (snack) and hydrate
- Stretch and raise the legs
- Drink more water
- Change clothes, take a shower, stay warm and dry
- Eat a meal
- Within 12 hours
- Foam roll
- Rest/ take a nap
- Active recovery (walk or stay active the rest of the day)
Make A Post Long Run Checklist
Once the runner does the main things after they run a few times it becomes a habit.
But make a checklist to have for that first long run. Leave it in the runner’s phone or write it down and display it somewhere visible.
Setting reminders is also a great idea, especially when it comes to hydrating throughout the day.
Having a checklist means the runner won’t forget the most important things to do to keep muscles from getting tight, to promote recovery and take care of the body after the intense workout.
The Day After
There are two different things the runner can do the day after their long run.
Some runners prefer just to take it easy the day after getting in some serious mileage. It’s perfectly fine to take a rest day. It is actually good for the body so that muscles have ice to repair.
It also reduces the risk of injuries associated with overuse.
Other runners prefer to go for an easy run. This is typically short mileage done at an easy pace. This is just to keep the muscles loose to avoid feeling stiff.
Another option is to cross train. This is ideal for those who want to work out, but also want to give their running muscles a break. Focus on arm day at the gym or do low-impact exercises like swimming.
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