Runners are often meticulous about their warmup and workout. But as soon as a run is over, we move to the next item on our daily to-do list, forgetting proper recovery is essential. Here are a few things runners should not do after a run — along with tips for establishing a healthy, quick post-run routine.
DON’T: JUST STOP
Runners often finish their miles and hop into the car or immediately sit down. Instead take a short amount of time to properly stretch out your muscles. Whether you are a relatively healthy runner or one who is prone to injury, it’s vital to perform some stretches or drills after you complete your run.
“Running doesn’t have a huge range of motion so it’s important that you do something that establishes a full range of motion before you completely shut it down,” says John Kenworthy, head cross country and track coach at Siena College in Loudinville, N.Y.
Ideally all runners should complete a full-body stretching routine. However if you only have five minutes, Kenworthy suggests leg swings: front to back, side to side and front to back with a bent knee. For injury-prone runners, focus on stretching big muscle groups through dynamic drills.
“Get the quads, get the calves, get the IT bands and get the glutes,” suggest Sandra Gallagher-Mohler, CEO and run coach at IRunTons. “If you can get the big ones down and spend 5 minutes stretching, you will save yourself hours of pain and poor performance later.”
DON’T: FORGET TO EAT
The time frame to replenish muscles after a run is short. Most often, runners tend to coast through that time frame without eating anything.
“You only have a 20-minute window to replenish,” says Gallagher-Mohler. “Otherwise your body is going to start pulling from muscle stores and you don’t want to undo all the work you just did.”
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The best thing runners can do is to have a snack that has a 4-to-1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. However both Kenworthy and Gallagher-Mohler stress that post-run fuel doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. A cup of chocolate milk, half a banana or even a handful of trail mix is all you need help your muscles recover. “The threshold is: Something is innumerably better than nothing,” says Kenworthy.
DON’T: LIFT HEAVY … OR NOT AT ALL
It’s all about finding the right balance when it comes to strength training and running. Pairing your intense running days with another heavy lifting workout breaks down your body instead of building it up. “You’re so depleted already that you can’t get those major gains,” says Gallagher-Mohler of runners who try to lift after tough workouts.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid the weight room on running days. Light-to-medium lifting can help accelerate recovery after a workout. “Doing some sort of strength work after some of your workouts can really help you feel better the next day, though that seems counterintuitive,” suggests Kenworthy.
The routine can be simple, such as a short core routine or a few bodyweight exercises. Runners can still benefit from heavy lifting, but save it for easy run days.
DON’T: GRAB A BEER
A few post-run drinks can certainly be fun. However the dehydration that occurs after consuming alcohol is detrimental to recovery and can be downright dangerous. If you choose to imbibe, consume just as much water, especially in the hours after your drinks. Just remember that attending every post-run happy hour won’t help to achieve a personal best.
“If your running goals are important, then there has got to be a priority list,” says Gallagher-Mohler.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN