Tips for running recovery

Recovery is just as important as training
Tips for running recovery
Photo by Timothy Hughes

As runners, we are driven by a fire inside that can burn out of control if left unchecked. What doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger when it comes to optimizing your running. Recovery is just as important as training, and these two opposing building blocks of fitness need to be in balance.

Fundamentally, fitness is simple: Apply stress, suffer micro injuries, recover from stress, heal stronger than you started. If the stress-to-recovery quotient tips too far in either direction, we will either see stagnant fitness gains, or worse, become weaker versions of ourselves.

The variable that can be so challenging to factor in is life stress. Our bodies can’t differentiate between negative pressures from our daily lives and the productive stress of running. Work, family, money, poor sleep and running all go into the same bucket. Fully recovering from running and life will open doors to fitness that we didn’t even know were there.

The amazing thing about running is that even after you have stopped moving, physiological processes are happening inside your body. We get to decide if we want to lock in the effort we put into our run, or if we want it to wear us down. Recovery consists of three components: food, rest and self-care.

Giving our body the energy it needs to repair itself and restore vitality is key. Within 30 minutes of running, plenty of fluid and a high-protein snack or meal will kick-start your recovery. A balanced, colorful diet will take care of the rest. Our bodies evolved to take nutrition from whole foods, so eating as close to the source as possible will keep you running strong. People’s dietary requirements vary, but in order to recover, all runners need to have enough to eat.

Sleeping is the magic potion that can heal our bodies from the stresses they endure during waking hours. Most of our fitness gains happen while we sleep. Hormone levels are restored, muscles are repaired and our body detoxifies itself. There is no replacement for quality sleep, but getting the sleep we need can be a challenge. Thinking of sleep as part of your training can help you make it a priority. The other side of rest is taking a break from running. Rest days allow us to fully adapt to the stress we put on our bodies.

Keeping our bodies healthy enough to thrive goes beyond eating well and resting enough. Running is a high-impact sport, and each time our foot strikes the ground, our muscles, tendons, and bones absorb the force of our body weight. All levels of runners should treat their bodies with the care of an athlete. Soaking your muscles, getting massages, doing yoga and stretching will keep your soft tissues supple and healthy. Most overuse injuries can be prevented by being diligent when it comes to self-care and honestly acknowledging aches and inflammation. Taking a few days off can save a runner from a full-blown injury.

Our bodies are delicate ecosystems, and we need to strike a balance to find our true potential. Running is the easy part, but it takes discipline to learn how to recover.

Bounce BackTips for running recovery

Jonnah Mellenthin Perkins recommends a few items to help take care of your body before and after running. Clockwise from top left: Epsom salt; Yumbutter pouches; ROLL Recovery R8 from Movin’ Shoes (center); green and black trigger point massage balls from Movin’ Shoes; Organic Valley Organic Fuel’s chocolate milk shake and vanilla powder; an orange Trigger Point NANO foot massager from Movin’ Shoes; a green Trigger Point MobiPoint Massage Ball from Movin’ Shoes; Rumpl Puffy Blanket; Hanah One Superfood Daily Adaptogen; white and red Salomon Exo Calf sleeves; black massage roller

Quick-Recovery Tips:
— Eat a snack right before bed with balanced protein/carbohydrate/fat — like half a bagel with peanut butter and honey
— Wear compression sleeves on your calves during or after your run to promote circulation
— Drink green tea to ease inflammation
— Read before bed instead of watching a screen
— Eat immediately after running
— Take an Epsom salt bath
— Download a meditation app like Headspace or Calm
— Eat an extra-big meal every few days
— Massage your muscles with a foam roller or other recovery tools
— Set an alarm to remind yourself to go to bed