Runners know all about the nuts and bolts of post-run recovery: nutrition, rehydration, stretching, and rest. While all these things are critical to maintaining healthy muscles and recuperating properly and quickly, you could be doing more. And having more fun while you're at it. Here are nine tips to make your next post-run recovery more enjoyable.
1. Cool Down, Clean Up
“Any long trail run should end with a cooldown, which can be as simple as 10 to 15 minutes of very slow, easy running,” says Elinor Fish, a Colorado-based ultrarunner and founder of Run Wild Retreats. Afterward, treat yourself to a refreshing rinse with Nemo’s Helio Pressure Shower. A foot pump allows you to quickly pressurize its 2.9-gallon reservoir, providing a steady five-to-seven-minute stream of water to clean dirty legs (or dogs). Stand on the Nemo Helio Mat while you rinse to keep your toes clean and comfy, and dry off with REI’s absorbent and packable MultiTowel Lite.
2. Soak It Up
Skiers and snowboarders get into hot tubs after a day in the snow. Runners should be able to soak their tired muscles, too. “While there doesn’t seem to be any scientific evidence of its efficacy, many runners find soaking in an Epsom salt baths very beneficial for alleviating post-run soreness,” says Fish. Don’t linger so long that you dehydrate yourself, but warm up and relax.
3. Get Comfy
Time to get out of that tight-fitting and technical clothing and into some more appropriate for kicking back. For women, MPG's Recovery Top and Lucy's Cool Down Jogger Pants are as cozy as they are stylish. For men, we like Prana’s loose-fitting Mojo shorts and cotton/poly Barringer Hoodie.
4. Treat Your Feet
Your feet have taken a pounding, literally. Kick off those running shoes and slide your toes into something relaxing and breathable. A pair of comfy, leather flip-flops, like the OluKai 'Ohanas, featuring a plush footbed and cushioned midsole, will feel like heaven. A foot massage is a bonus. “If your feet are achy or sore, self-massage can be helpful to move fluid from the feet and reduce swelling,” says Fish.
5. Hydration Station
“Rehydrating after a long run is essential to the recovery process,” says Fish. “Recovery is all about healing exercise-induced damage to the muscles and other tissues, so water is a critical ingredient in that process.” Drink plenty of water by keeping your Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth Vacuum Bottle close at hand—it’ll keep 64 ounces of water cold for up to 24 hours. For an added boost, mix in chocolate-flavored Hammer Nutrition Recoverite, which aids recovery and replaces essential minerals.
6. Music Heals
Turn your tailgate in the trailhead parking lot into a celebratory post-run haven. Break out the portable and packable REI Flex Lite Chair, fire up your favorite playlist using Outdoor Tech’s Turtle Shell 2.0 portable speaker, and, (once you've rehydrated, see #5), crack a beer. It’s true, beer may not boost your recovery, per se, but that’s OK; it’ll taste good, and you earned it. Keep your six-pack cold in Yeti’s Roadie 20 Cooler.
7. Fill Your Belly
“Within 30 minutes of finishing a run, eat a recovery snack containing carbohydrates and protein,” says Fish. “What you eat right after a run has a huge influence on the quality of your recovery, because it helps your body switch from being in a state of stress to healing.” Fish recommends something like a fruit and spinach smoothie with hemp protein powder and almond milk. Impress your running buddies by whipping up a smoothie at the trailhead with Coleman’s battery-operated portable blender. Or drizzle sliced bananas with almond butter and serve it up trailside in MSR’s Alpine Nesting Bowl.
8. Roll It Out
Foam rollers can do wonders for tight muscles, but wait a while before you dig deep. “Right after a run, your muscles are inflamed and in a delicate state,” says Fish. “So as long as it’s not immediately after a hard workout, foam rollers can be great for stretching muscles, loosening adhered tissues, and improving mobility.” Tiger Tail’s USA Muscle Massager is essentially a handheld version of a full-size foam roller and can be used to alleviate sore, cramped, or tight muscles in your glutes, hip flexors, or IT bands. Or try Pro-Tec’s Orb Massage Ball to loosen knots in your calves and quads.
9. Snooze or Stretch Softly
Take a nap or pop into pigeon pose on the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad, a foam pad that packs up small and doubles as a perfect stretching mat. “Relaxed, static stretching can be beneficial right after a run, but I wouldn’t recommend anything too deep until the following day or way later in the same day,” adds Fish.