No question, long runs can really take it out of you. But if you’re a committed runner, you want to be able to get back out there and hit the roads or trails again hard, as soon as possible.
To me, recovery from a solid workout means three things: The first is equipment that can help reduce the need for a lot of recovery. The second is gear that actually can aid the recovery process. And the third is a set of nutrition tools that can expedite recovery from a hard workout.
Running Recovery Tools: Prevention
It helps if you can reduce the need for recovery even during the workout. Everyone’s running style and footwear needs are a little different, but these shoes are a great place to start.
Try a pair of New Balance 860v2s ($110). They’re a new design from one of the premier running-shoe makers out there. The 860v2s take the minimalist school to heart in this lightweight shoe, but still offer good pronation control and plenty of cushioning. You’ll feel great wearing them, and great after your run as well.
I wear a pair of Saucony Kinvaras, and will soon be upgrading to the new Kinvara 3 ($100). These are a very lightweight shoe that have a low heel-to-toe angle, helping runners who are forefoot strikers find their stride. I was a long-time heel-striker but re-built how I run to reduce the pounding. These shoes feel great—almost like no shoe at all, but with better cushioning.
Running Recovery Tools: Post-Run Support
There are indeed things you can buy to help you recover in a more active way. The general principle is to apply gentle compression to run-weary legs, with the idea that this improves circulation, supports tired muscles, and reduces lactic acid production.
One simple step to take, for instance, is to buy a pair of CW-X Compression Support Socks ($38). They’re made with a web-like fabric that gently squeezes the ankle and calf, so that muscles can recover more easily.
Wearing the right shoes after a run can help too. Check out the Salomon RX Moc 2 ($75). These are a very light slip on with a nicely cushioned sole and leather footbeds, very comfortable and relaxing to wear around the house after a run. They’ll give tired feet a nice break.
Running Recovery Tools: Treat Yourself
I think the happiest thing I ever read was an article several years back that described chocolate milk as a near-perfect post-workout recovery drink, with lots of protein and carbs to help you snap back. I love chocolate milk, so this was wonderful news.
So after a long, hard run, treat yourself. Since chocolate milk isn't terribly portable, a delicious bar is a good alternative.
Also, a lot of fitness experts recommend a dose of protein soon after a hard workout, to help muscles revive and re-build. A good way to get some protein is with the Luna Protein Bar ($22 for a box of 12). Each contains 12 grams of soy protein that’s easy to digest and goes right to work. And the bars come in a range of flavors.
You might also try Clif’s Builder Bar ($21 for a box of 12). They have even more protein than the Luna—20 grams, although they also pack more calories (270, versus 200).