Running is one of the most enjoyable forms of exercise. You get to spend time outdoors, soaking in the sun and getting your endorphins flowing. You can listen to music to get yourself pumped up, or you can just chill out and relax to the sounds of nature. It’s cheap and easy, meaning you don’t have to have any specialist equipment to start running – all you require is a pair of comfortable trainers. And it’s suitable for people of all abilities, whether you prefer a short jog around the block or you’re training for a sub-three hour marathon.
For runners of all levels, one of the most important parts of your exercise regime is recovery. Too many people, once they’ve finished their run and walked through the front door, decide their training is over for the day and go back to whatever they were doing. But proper recovery is just as important as the run itself. Your muscles and joints are taking a pounding while you’re on the move, and you need to give them the proper attention to ensure they remain in fighting form for your next run.
Effective recovery is not difficult, and doesn’t require a huge amount of effort on your part, but the benefits are huge. It will prevent muscle soreness and fatigue, reduce your risk of injury, and help to improve your future performance. So there is no excuse to neglect it. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are three essential recovery tips for runners of all abilities.
Have a cooldown
Whenever you run, it’s best to finish your workout with a short cool down to help your body return to its normal state. Go down to an easy jog or a brisk walk for the last half mile or so. This will help your body redistribute blood flow, regulate breathing and heart rate, and reduce muscle soreness.
Stretch after running
Everyone knows you need to stretch after a run, but few people listen to this advice. As soon as you head indoors, or even before, do some static stretching exercises like toe touches and standing quad stretches. This will keep your muscles supple and prevent them from shortening, as well as increasing circulation which helps with reducing stiffness. Yoga mats and foam rollers are great pieces of kit to help you with your stretching. Remember that you shouldn’t stretch before a run, as this will reduce muscle tension and impair your performance. Instead, start with a warmup of a brisk walk or some dynamic exercises to get your body moving.
Fuel your body
Nutrition is one of the most important elements of post-run recovery, so you need to make sure you are eating and drinking the right things. Eat something with protein and carbs within an hour of finishing your run, such as a smoothie with peanut butter and oats. This will allow your body to rebuild after the stress of training. Remember that staying hydrated is also essential, so drink plenty of water.