My Post-Run Routine: Rest, Refuel and Recover

Some days, it’s a victory just to get out of bed to go for a run or work out. It’s hot, or raining, or you’re just tired or hungover, and staying in bed sounds so much better! One thing that helps me is the knowledge that if I leave my run to after work, I most likely won’t do it. It’s friggin’ hot in Memphis at 5PM! It’s usually pretty bad in the mornings (70s and high humidity), but better than 95-100 and post-thunderstorm humidity. I find that if I don’t hit snooze, throw the covers off, then I’m good to go.

But what do I do after running? Do I collapse onto the couch, drink some water or sports drink, stretch, fall asleep? For me, it depends on my run. If it’s just a normal weekday run (4-6 miles), I do one thing. If it’s a Saturday morning long run (anywhere from 10-20 miles), it’s something completely different. But they generally follow a formula: rest, refuel and recover.

As soon as I’m done running, I walk for a bit. Nothing too long, it’s usually the distance from wherever I stop on the street to my apartment (usually no more than 1/4 mile, but more often than not much shorter than that). This serves an important function in bringing my heart rate back down to Earth and letting me catch my breath. This phase typically lasts around 5-10 minutes. Afterwards, your heart rate should be back to Z1 or lower. If not, take some more time and breath deeply.

Here, it again depends on what I’ve done. Short run refueling is a bit different than long run. For short runs, or runs less than an hour, water is best. You don’t really need to replace any electrolytes at this point, so drinking Gatorade is just adding sugar into your system. For longer runs, Gatorade is definitely appropriate (or whatever sports drink you have). After I have some, I’ll reach for some chocolate milk. What, you didn’t know chocolate milk was an excellent recovery drink? I always keep some handy, as it’s excellent for repairing muscles. And it tastes friggin’ awesome.

Of course, if it’s really hot and humid out, then it may be necessary to drink a sports drink after even a shorter workout. It also may be necessary to drink while on the run. If you’re coming home and you’ve sweat out everything you could, and now your face is covered in a chalky, flaky white substance, guess what: you’re dehydrated! Keep drinking!

This phase of my post-run plan is where I do any stretching, ice baths, etc. You shouldn’t really stretch before running, according to people smarter than me. You should warm up dynamically. Static stretching while your muscles are cold could lead to injury. Instead, I lay down on a mat and stretch it out. I also do a bit of a core workout, consisting of crunches, planks (both regular and side), bicycle crunches and slow push ups. If I’ve done a long run in hot temps, I may take an ice bath. These aren’t something I used to do, but R turned me on to them last summer while training for MCM. They definitely help in muscle recovery.

After that, it’s more rest. Maybe even a nap, though I’ve never been good at taking them. It’s a simple plan, but it works for me. What are some of your post-run or post-workout routines?

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