Strength Training

7 Powerful Ways to Boost Recovery for Runners

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, 7 Powerful Ways to Boost Recovery for Runners

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Research reveals that one of the main reasons people run is that it provides a sense of accomplishment. It’s also a great way to improve health, increase fitness, and socialize with other exercise enthusiasts. Just as a good training workout is important to running faster and further, so too is proper recovery. 

Why Is Recovery for Runners Important?

Running is an exercise that relies heavily on the leg muscles. Most of the stress is placed on the quadriceps, but also the hamstrings and calves. The muscle located within the hips, glutes, and core further supports a running motion. If all of these areas aren’t allowed to recover, injury can result.

The Cleveland Clinic reports that it’s not uncommon for runners to experience certain lower-body injuries. This injury list includes:

  • runner’s knee
  • plantar fasciitis
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • iliotibial band syndrome
  • shin splints
  • stress fracture 

The Clinic adds that one way to reduce one’s risk of sustaining a running injury is to avoid overtraining. Give the body time to heal from the stresses of the run. This plays an important role in injury prevention. It’s also where a running recovery routine comes into play.

Recovery also helps reduce running-related muscle soreness. Lactic acid can build up in the muscle during long runs. This leads to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which can be felt for the next 24 to 72 hours. Recovery helps reduce acid buildup, also decreasing soreness.

Sore muscles can make it difficult to go out on the next run. While some soreness can be expected—especially if you’ve recently ramped up your running routine—if the soreness is severe, it can make it harder to engage in everyday activities. You may feel pain or discomfort every time you stand up and move around. This can detract from the benefits that running has to offer.

Recreational Runner vs Marathon Recovery

Is recovery more important for certain types of runners, such as those who run for fun versus those who are training to run a marathon? The short answer is no. Any type of regular exercise or training regimen should include a recovery process. This helps reduce the risk of injury and decrease soreness for most any athlete.

What may change is what this recovery looks like. For instance, recovery from running one mile will generally take much less time than recovering from a 10-mile run or marathon. Plus, marathon training often involves longer runs in closer succession. This can make tight muscles a bigger problem than for someone who runs shorter distances.

That’s why it is important to create a recovery process based on the individual’s training program and recovery needs. What type of activities can help promote recovery for all types of runners?

7 Powerful Ways to Boost Running Recovery

Fortunately for running enthusiasts, there are multiple ways to help the muscles recover after a grueling workout or training run. Here are seven of the most effective, making them the most powerful for quick running recovery.

Use a Foam Roller

Foam rolling is great for improving blood flow to overworked leg muscles. Enhanced blood circulation means the muscle gets more healing nutrients. It also means the blood can reach the area to take any unhealthy toxins away.

Foam rolling exercises to consider include calf rolls, iliotibial band rolls (the outer side of the thighs), and rolling the piriformis (the outer side of the butt). When foam rolling, use slow and controlled movements. This helps relax the tense lower body muscles.

Engage in Static Stretching Exercises

Static stretching is another way to get tight muscles to relax. This type of stretching involves holding a position for a set period of time. It elongates the muscle and surrounding soft tissues.

Aim to stretch as many muscles in the lower body as possible. Stretch the hip flexors, thigh, hamstring, iliotibial band, and calf. You may notice some initial soreness during the stretch. This is okay. But if it turns to pain, stop stretching to avoid damaging the impacted area.

Do Yoga

Yoga is also an effective way to recover after a longer or more intense run. Other post-workout yoga benefits include reduced stress, easing muscle soreness and pain, and better sleep.

Good yoga poses for runners include downward dog, seated forward bend, and reclining pigeon. Reclining spinal twist, low lunge, and twisted dragon are additional poses to support recovery after a good run.

Wear Compression Garments

Studies have found that the use of compression gear can further enhance recovery. Compression works by impacting the amount of creatine kinase in the blood. This is an enzyme that’s released when muscle damage occurs. It also reduces muscle soreness up to 48 hours after a training or workout. 

This particular research involved wearing compression tights. However, you may also benefit from using a compression sock or other compression garments, providing the same effect.

Take an Ice Bath

Walk into almost any pro athlete locker room and you will see containers designed for ice baths. These baths help, in part, by easing muscle soreness. The cold is also good for reducing swelling and inflammation.

When using cold for recovery, don’t let the temperature of the bath dip below 50 degrees. Also keep your water time short, no longer than 15 minutes. This keeps your body temperature from going too low.

Get a Massage

Getting a post-run massage is a great way to celebrate finishing an event or pushing through a tough workout session. Like with foam rolling and stretching, massage helps relax tight muscles while improving blood circulation. 

Before the massage, ask the therapist to focus on the muscles that are the sorest. Tell them about your training schedule so they know how to provide a massage that offers the best results.

Go on a Recovery Run

Recovery doesn’t mean that you must sit on the couch and watch television all day. In fact, active recovery helps the body heal by using movement that is less intense. This helps keep the muscles functional and limber without placing too much stress on the tissues and joints.

When doing a recovery run, your pace should be about 55 to 75 percent slower than your normal run. Again, the goal is not to make improvements in speed or distance. It’s only to keep your muscles moving and blood flowing. Even walking is a good low-impact way to engage in active recovery.

Muscle Recovery and Diet

Though not an action or therapeutic, you can also enhance running recovery via the foods you eat. Protein provides the nutrients the body needs to repair muscle damage. This makes a shake made with a protein powder a good recovery drink. Whey protein is best for this purpose because it is the form of protein that is absorbed by the body the quickest.  

Adding a post-exercise carbohydrate also helps restore energy by giving your body some much-needed glucose. Grab a banana to munch on or add it to your protein shake. A sweet potato is another option if you want something more filling.

Helping Clients Develop a Regular Recovery Routine

As a personal trainer, you can help clients by working with them to schedule recovery into their training plan. Talk about all of their recovery options and help them choose the ones that they would enjoy the most or that would provide the most benefit.

Creating a recovery routine is as important as creating a workout routine. The body benefits when both its work and rest periods support optimal health and wellness. Both should also support injury prevention.

If you’re looking for additional ways to help your runner clients, the ISSA offers Strength and Conditioning certification. This course teaches you how to improve strength, speed, and agility. This can help them reach all of their time and distance goals safer and more effectively.


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