The Worst Things You Can Do After a Run
Running – like all athletic endeavors – can put your body under a considerable amount of stress. In fact, all of the benefits that one can hope to reap through training come, not from the exercise itself, but from your body’s response to that exercise. Put simply, what you do after your workout, while your body is responding, can have a massive impact on what sort of results you actually see.
Unfortunately, people commonly engage in several post-run habits that could directly counteract your body’s attempts at recovery. But what are these problem activities? What are some of the worst things that you can do after a run?
Staying In Your Workout Clothes
Regardless of the weather or the amount that you think you sweat during your runs, there’s a very strong chance that your running clothes are a somewhat foreboding environment after you’ve finished working out. All of your clothing including (read: especially) your footwear can quickly and easily become a breeding ground for all sorts of microorganisms.
In addition to the fairly obvious hygienic problems here, allowing those microbes to grow so quickly can have a pretty noticeable impact on the appearance and health of your skin. Plus, the moisture now locked in those garments will block your body’s own natural climate control systems and actually keep your muscles colder than they should be. In order to recover properly, your muscles and joints need to be able to stay warm and limber. Not only will this limit any stiffness you might experience, it also allows your muscles to receive more blood, oxygen and nutrients while clearing away metabolic waste. As a result, those hardworking muscles can recover fast and more thoroughly.
Exercising burns calories – that’s a pretty universally understood fact. What many people forget, though, is that calories are units of energy. So, all of those calories you burn during your run can pretty easily leave yourself hungry and fatigued. As a result, people tend to binge on simple sugars shortly after they’ve finished their workout.
Interestingly, this decision is often made fairly consciously based on the reasoning that they “earned it.” This is not a great a idea. For several reasons.
First, the reality is that exercise does not burn that many calories in relation to the amount of calories that you can extract from your food. So, chances are fairly high that you can not only reintroduce all of those burned calories but even eat more than you lost. For example, the average person will burn somewhere around 100 calories for each mile that they run depending on their weight, speed and fitness level. That equates to just 12 Gummi Bears worth of energy. That’s it. If you’re trying to use exercise as a way to excuse a poor diet, then, the numbers simply aren’t in your favor.
The food that people tend to reach for in these post-exercise revelries, though, is generally nutritionally lackluster. As mentioned, exercise depletes your calorie stores, specifically in the form of glucose which is a form of sugar. Logically, then, your brain will typically drive you toward sugary foods that can refuel you quickly and easily.
In reality, the best post-workout snack should include some protein for muscle repair and complex, slow-digesting carbohydrates for energy. While simple carbs will burn up quickly, this means that they will leave you needing more sooner. Slow carbohydrates, however, take longer to break down and will provide you with a steady source of energy.
When runners think about rest and recovery, they often mistakenly assume that this equates to inactivity. So, recovery days can quickly and easily turn into times in which they do as little as possible. Unfortunately, this is basically the opposite of what you should actually be doing.
While you should definitely avoid any strenuous activity that could damage your already exhausted and drained muscles, you also should not simply sit around and do nothing. As mentioned, your muscles need to have a steady flow of blood (which carries oxygen and nutrients in while taking waste out ) in order to recover properly. Light activity can stimulate this recovery-enhancing blood flow and reduce the severity of exercise-related soreness.
When it comes to deciding exactly what you do on these active recovery days, you have plenty of options. You can go for a short, easy walk, do some stretching or take care of some chores around the house. You can also divide this activity up into brief chunks throughout the day rather than committing yourself to one standard-length bout. What you choose to do, the goal is just to keep moving.
Once your workout is complete, then, your primary focus should be not only allow your body to recovery but to assist in that effort. For this to happen, your body needs the time and nutrients needed for your muscles to grow stronger and more efficient.