My cross country team usually goes on long runs once or twice a week. To put that in perspective, we practice 5-6 days a week. Long runs can be painful, especially if the run is filled with hills. However, I’ve found a lot of ways to quickly recover from a long run. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Cross train: If you’re too sore to go for a run the next day, you can still fit in some training by cross training. Some cross training options include pool running, bicycling, and weight lifting. If you plan on weight lifting, I would definitely get a coach to help you, especially if you’re still a teen. A coach can make sure that you don’t get hurt and that you use the proper weights and techniques for your age and ability.
- Eat up and drink up: As I explained in last week’s running feature post, hydration is essential whether you’ve just come back from a long run or not. It will also prevent you from getting muscle cramps. Eating up is also important. After a long run, you should pack your meal with protein because protein is what your muscles use to repair themselves.
- Foam roll: Foam rolling hurts, especially when you’re rolling your IT band and you hit that one spot on your leg that hurts the most. However, while it might hurt when you first start out, you’ll soon get used to it and foam rolling will help your muscles feel better when you are done. By the way, for those who do not know what a foam roller is, it’s basically a self massage tool shaped like a cylinder.
- Stretch: Stretching is good for sore muscles because it prevents them from tightening up and it loosens muscles that are already tight. Take it easy with the stretching, though. Don’t stretch so much too the point where it hurts. You should be able to feel your stretches, but if it is painful, you should ease back. Also, you should not stretch before you run, because that has been proven to make you more prone to injury. Instead, warm up with a light jog or form drills.
- Ice Therapy: Right after you get back from a long run, fill the bathtub with cold water and soak your legs in the water. Better yet, if you’re run was on a trail and there is a cold waterfall or stream next to the trail, you can jump in there. The cold water will help activate the healing process in your muscles so that you feel refreshed the next day.
- Sleep: On the night after a long run, make sure you get extra sleep. Sleep is when your muscles repair themselves, so getting a long night’s sleep will give your body more time to repair itself.
A lot of the above recovery methods could help with any sport. If you’re an athlete, what’s your favorite recovery method?