Running a long distance race can beat up your body. You will be sore the day of, and at least a few days after. Even though the discomfort and soreness is inevitable, there are ways to speed up the recovery process. Pretty much all of these are things you can be doing throughout training to help you recover faster from hard training.
Whether that’s taking ice baths, putting ice packs on your legs and feet, or going to cryo therapy-it all helps your muscle recover! Taking cold showers, or turning it to cold when you’re near the end of your shower, is another option.
Epsom Salt Bath
Taking a bath can help relax muscles and loosen stiff joints. If you have access to a hot tub, that can also help. Hot tubs have the added bonus of the jets, which can feel nice against sore muscles. Heat also helps increase blood flow.
When you initially shower after a race or long run, you actually shouldn’t take hot showers. Your muscles are already inflamed, so using cool water is better. The baths are for next day. Although after the San Diego marathon I got in the hot tub right after. So just depends what kind of pain you have going on.
When I had pain in my knee from my IT band, going in the hot tup helped a lot. When I didn’t have time to go to the hot tub, I put a hot pack on my knee (the clay one that you heat up in the microwave). It worked so well! With ligaments-like the ITB-they need blood flow to heal, and as previously stated- heat increases blood flow. I started out doing ice packs, but it wasn’t helping as much. After some reading, I realized that heat was the way to go!
Foam roll/roll recovery
Using massage tools such as a foam roller and the roll recovery help a ton. You can the foam roller for your entire leg plus your glutes, the roll recovery is only useable on the legs.
If you can afford an actual massage, then that is also a great option. Compression boots help blood circulation which helps muscle recover faster as well.
It’s important to give your body time to recover. After a race you want to take some time off doing any exercises, aside from walking. After a long run, or a tough week of running, you want to take a day off, or have a recovery run.
After a race if you are feeling the niggling of a potential injury, then you probably should stay off your feet for a couple days post race. In San Diego I had pain in my IT band, so the two days following the race I didn’t do much walking even. The day right after, I got less than 4,000 steps!
If you have a race with no pain (just usual post race soreness) then walking around will actually help that stiffness go away faster.
When training you want to have a relatively clean diet to aid in muscle recovery. After a race, it’s fine to have a couple days where you enjoy whatever you want. However, the sooner you get back to healthier eating, the better it is for your body.
After a race you want to be sure to eat enough protein to help repair muscles, as well as carbs to refill your glycogen stores. Then a few anti-inflammatory foods you could eat are: apples, green tea, pineapple, cherries, blueberries, avocados, tumeric, salmon, chicken, turkey, spinach.
NSAIDS are anti inflammatory pills such as ibuprofen. These should be avoided because they actually prolong muscle recovery. Taking too many can also cause serious stomach problems. Tylenol isn’t a NSAID, but even that you shouldn’t take unless you have a legit injury and are in pain.
Pain relieving patches and Pure Lemon Essential Oil
If you have certain spots that are tender, you could put a pain relieving patch on it. Such as Salonpas, Biofreeze or Tiger Balm.
Applying 100% Pure Lemon Essential Oil also works wonders for tight areas. After SD I put some on my the side of my knee and it worked wonders! You can apply it to a cloth and then dab the cloth on the tender area.
Sleep is such an important part of recovery! Did you know runners should be getting 10 hours or sleep a night?? I know most people aren’t able to sleep that much due to life obligations, but when you have the chance to go to bed a little earlier, sleep a little later, or take a nap, you should take advantage and get those extra zzz’s.
Walk around afterwards-don’t sit right away
After a long run or race, you want to walk around a bit after you stop running. After a marathon, walking as much as a mile can help with the recovery. Your first instinct may be to find a chair, but sitting right away will cause your muscles to tense up and will prolong the stiffness.
Do prehab work
Prehab means doing exercises that prevent injury. Doing the Mrtyl Routine, banded walks, planks. Any type of strengthening or mobility work you do while training. Continuing this while you recover from a race (or long run) will help you body feel strong again faster.
Don’t expect fast paces for a few weeks
You should take time off running after a marathon. The amount of days is up to your based on how your body is feeling. When you do start running, ease back into it. You taper down to prepare for the race, afterwards you should do a reverse taper and gradually increase it. Once I start running again I tend to feel a bit ridged. It’s usually about three weeks after the race that I finally feel more loosened up while running. At that three week mark is also when I start incorporating speed work again.
I talk about other recovery tools for runners in this post. Some of which I mentioned above.
How do you recover after a race?