The Runner’s Guide to Recovery
How to make sure tomorrow’s run is as good as—or better than—today’s
Whether you’re a new runner or dedicated marathoner, proper recovery is a key component of any successful training program. It’s also one of the most ignored aspects of running. But in order to reap the rewards, you’ve got to treat your body right. “You want to reduce setbacks during training and prevent future injury,” says Under Armour pro coach Shayla Houlihan. “It’s really about completing a series of small things that add up.” Here’s how to do all those small things right.
Develop a Quick Cool-Down Routine
Before you change out of your kit, a few post-run exercises will help ease your body back to reality, especially after a particularly hard effort or tempo run. “If you add in five to ten minutes of drills after your run, you’ll be good to go,” Houlihan says. These can take a variety of forms, but Houlihan likes moves that pull you out of running’s one plane of motion, such as lateral lunges, squats, and backward skipping.
Get Some Calories on Board Quickly
Your cool-down session is a good time to start thinking about the refrigerator—or at least a quick snack. Registered dietician Cara Harbstreet says that within that first hour post-run, you need some calories. “On a metabolic level, this is when your body is primed to absorb the nutrients you’ve lost,” she explains. “This is often when you’re least likely to have an appetite, but you need to take in some nutrition.”
This first hit of food should lean toward easily absorbed carbs such as fresh fruit, a serving of ready-to-eat cereal or oatmeal, or half a bagel or small English muffin. If you’re feeling queasy or lacking an appetite, consider a liquid replenishment. Anything from chocolate milk or a fruit-and-yogurt smoothie to a sports drink or a carbohydrate gel are good options, Harbstreet says.
Get Your Roll On
A great way to stretch out your tired muscles is with low-tech tools like foam rollers and lacrosse balls. In the midst of the pandemic, when regular massages and bodywork are out of reach, this time can be all the more valuable.
It doesn’t have to be an elaborate routine to work, says Houlihan. “Just a few minutes a day goes a long way,” she says. “It will reduce fatigue and get your muscles, tendons, and ligaments moving. If you find a particularly tender spot, hang out there for a little bit until it loosens.”
Limber Up Your Legs
Another great way to stretch out your legs is to add easy cross-training activity. A walk around the neighborhood, a relaxed 30-minute spin on the bike, or a dip in the pool can all help your legs flush out the junk and get you ready for your next effort, whether tempo, track, or a 20-miler.
Nail Your First Real Meal
As your body temperature comes down, start looking to your first real meal, which should include some higher protein content and good fat to further aid recovery. In general, says Harbstreet, this should be somewhere close to a three-to-one carb-to-fat/protein ratio, but it’ll look different for each athlete. Mixed dishes like a sandwich, a burrito, or a pasta- or grain-based meal will contribute to an athlete’s absolute carb intake, which is more important than a specific percentage of total calories or grams. “A lot depends on your body’s tolerance and efficiency at using the nutrients,” says Harbstreet. “This usually takes some trial and error.”
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Recovery needn’t be complicated, says Houlihan, and she points to one of the most obvious and easy tools in your box: sleep. “Get a solid seven to nine hours every night and let your body do the work,” she says. “Sleep can have a big impact on how well you recover.” Turbo-boost overnight by wearing UA Recover sleepwear and you’ll jump out of bed ready to go in the morning.
And Finally, Find Your Optimal Rhythm
Don’t forget to space out your hard runs with easy runs in between. Let your HOVR Machina shoes keep you honest by checking your running stats, which seamlessly upload to MapMyRun. Put it all together and you’ll go into your next run as if that tempo effort never happened.
Under Armour is a leading athletic performance apparel, footwear, and accessories brand. Powered by one of the world’s largest digitally connected fitness and wellness communities, including MyFitnessPal™ and MapMyRun™, Under Armour’s innovative products and experiences are designed to help advance human performance, making all athletes better. Learn more and shop at underarmour.com.