A blog by runners. For runners.

Tips for post-race recovery


I’ve run a lot of races and after crossing the finish line, all I want is an ice-cold beverage. Once I get home, all I want to do is lie down and relax for the rest of the day.

I’ve earned it, right?

While that might be true, not recovering well after a hard run or race can jeopardize your future running success — and possibly set you up for injury. Running experts say that a proper recovery is the most critical — and most overlooked — part of athletic training.

These tips can help you recover right:

  1. Get food in you stat. You only have about a 30-minute window of time to get a healthy mix of protein and carbs in you to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscles. Eating promptly now can stop you from feeling sluggish on your next run. Refuel with a peanut butter sandwich or a glass of low-fat chocolate milk. Be sure to drink plenty of water, too.
  2. Stretch lightly. Stretching after a long not only feels good, but it’s good for you. It’s best to stretch your major muscle groups — like hamstrings and hips — lightly between 30 minutes and two hours after you run.
  3. Ice, ice baby. If you’ve never tried an ice bath, you’re missing out. Ice baths are one of the best ways to offset the damage your body sustained during on a run. Cold therapy helps reduce swelling and tissue breakdown, meaning your body recovers more quickly. I feared the ice bath for years. But, it’s not so bad. To do it right:
    • Wear a sweater or sweatshirt and bathing suit bottoms.
    • Fill a tub up with enough cold water so that it covers your hips.
    • Pour two bags of ice on top of you.
    • Take deep breaths.
    • Sit in the tub for about 15- 20 minutes.

    It also helps to apply ice packs to sore body parts as soon as possible after a run. Just don’t leave the ice on for longer than 20 minutes at a time.

  4. Take a rest. Putting your feet up, lying down, and even taking a short nap does a tired body good.
  5. … But don’t be lazy. Resist the urge to spend the whole day on the couch. Not moving around can make your muscles tighter and sorer. Take a walk around the block to stretch out your legs.
  6. Take some time off. Some experts say that you should take one day off from intense running for every mile you raced. For instance, if you ran a half marathon, you should wait 13 days before running hard again. You may not need to take quite so much time off, but it’s a good idea to take it easy for a while. Resist the urge to run in the days after a big event and cross-train instead.

Each person’s recovery needs are different. So, it may take some trial and error to find the formula that helps your body bounce back best. Keep a detailed training log with your mileage and note how you feel in the days after a race to see what works best for you.

How do you recover after a hard run or race? Is anyone a fan of compression socks?

Related: Recovery recipe with quinoa | Yoga for Runners

Written by Jen Matz.