Marathon Training Tip: Recovering from Long Runs

Monday’s Workout

– 4 mile recovery run on T/M

I meant to get a double session of run and yoga in yesterday, but I made the rookie mistake of eating dinner right before my run and barely managed to finish the run =/ Mike and I will go to hot yoga tonight instead – his hot yoga towel arrived!

Today, I wanted to talk about how my recovery plan after my long runs has changed – for the better! When I first started running two years ago, my version of long run recovery was coming home, showering, and parking my butt on the couch for the rest of the day. I did little to no activity on the days following my long runs, because I figured that would help my legs recover faster (wrong). This “recovery plan” resulted in very sore and stiff legs and hips, and as my mileage increased, my legs felt more and more fatigued.

Two years of running and reading running blogs/ magazines have taught me there are better recovery techniques out there! So this time around, I’m being a lot more intentional about recovering after my long runs, especially since I’m trying to run 5 days a week and incorporate speedwork training during the week, which is no fun with heavy, fatigued legs. Here are the steps I’ve been following on the weekends after my long run days!

6 Steps for Long Run Recovery

1. Consume protein and carbohydrates ASAP after the run to replenish your glucose stores, which are depleted after a lot of activity. As soon as I get home, I drink a big mug of warm almond milk with protein powder mixed in. My current favorite is Designer Whey, chocolate or vanilla.

designer whey

2. Take a 15-20 min ice bath for legs and feet ASAP after run. There’s no definitive study that shows ice baths assist recovery, but a lot of runners swear that it aids recovery by reducing swelling and stiffness.  I find that I don’t feel as sore the next day! I do this step in conjunction with #1 – I’ll heat up my almond milk while running the water for the ice bath. I fill the tub with a few inches of cold water, then dump in all the ice from the ice maker in the freezer as well as any ice I’ve managed to stockpile in plastic grocery bags during the week.

My tips for ice baths
– have entertainment or something to do to take your mind off of the cold – I watch TV on the ipad/ laptop.
– get in with your running clothes still on (makes it much more bearable for me, plus it takes me less time to get in)
– have something hot to drink in hand! Which is why I warm up my almond milk ;)

Believe it or not, this has become my favorite part of post-run recovery and I look forward to it every week!

022 023

3. Foam roll/ stretch a few hours after the run – I’ll spend a good 15 minutes stretching and foam rolling my body, focusing on areas that were stressed towards the end of the run like my calves, hamstrings and bottoms of my feet.  I’ll also ice anything that’s in pain – my knee is an occasional candidate for this.

4. Compress! I wear my Pro Compression socks the rest of the day, and the extra support helps me walk around more and my calves feel better the next day.

pro pink

5. Hydrate , hydrate, hydrate for the rest of the day – I used to get terrible headaches from dehydration for a day or two after long runs, so now I force myself to drink lots of water and electrolytes after the run.  And sometimes, this requires drinking a milkshake at lunchtime :)IMG_20140222_123815_272

6. Perform active recovery in the afternoon or next day – this can be any kind of easy cross-training for 30 minutes or so to get the blood flowing to your muscles and keep your legs from getting too stiff.  This usually takes the form of an easy run or pool running for me – cycling, elliptical, yoga or swimming are also good options!

I’ve also been using electro-stimulation lately because our temporary roommate owns a Compex! This has been absolute gold for my calves; two cycles of the Recovery program reduce my muscle soreness/ stiffness by at least half.  They’re not cheap, but I’m trying to convince Mike to let me buy one with part of our tax refund ;)

I find that if I’m diligent about doing these steps to help my body and legs recover, they’re ready to go for another week of training on Monday!

What are your tried and true methods for recovering faster after a long run?


7 thoughts on “Marathon Training Tip: Recovering from Long Runs

  1. I need to get better about this – especially when I will be training this summer! I like to do a 3-4 mile slow run the day after my long runs just to keep my legs fresh.

    1. Dawn H.

      It takes some time to recover properly, but I’m seeing such a huge difference the next day and two days after my long run! Yea, I had no idea that running the day after could actually be GOOD for recovery :)

  2. ice baths take me back to high school P.E.and track and field! i used to dread them, but i know they helped. i’ve heard a lot about that foam rolling – must look into that.

    1. Dawn H.

      Definitely! Foam rolling is awesome for releasing the muscles, like a massage. I have two – a spiky one and hard one!

  3. Pingback: Marathon Training Tip: Surviving the Long Run | sneaker∙therapy

  4. hey! so ever since this post, i put the designer whey protein + almond milk on my list of things to try. i was totally looking forward to it…finally got around to buying the powder…and, ugh, i didn’t like the “diet” taste of the powder (guessing that’s the stevia??)! Have you tried any other protein powders that do not contain sweeteners? thanks :)

    1. Dawn H.

      Ah sorry to hear that! It’s actually starting to bother me too – I taste it more in my current chocolate flavor than I have in past batches. From my research, it looks like it’s hard to find a flavored protein powder without stevia, because that’s how they keep the calories down while adding taste. You could look for Natural flavor (like this one), which usually doesn’t have any sweeteners, artificial or otherwise. Another option is to make a protein shake in a blender using something like yogurt or peanut butter for your protein source, and leaving out the protein powder altogether. You can also just make chocolate milk! I used to drink chocolate Ovaltine + almond milk as my recovery drink all the time.

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