Updated: July 18th, 2013

Every serious runner has a go-to repertoire of key workouts they resort to when training for a big race- long runs, tempos, track intervals, hill repeats, recovery training… Stop. I know what you are thinking- “Recovery Training? Recovery isn’t training!”

Actually, fellow runner, recovery is just as important as any other workout you would complete, if not more so. Without proper recovery, you cannot improve.

I like to look at rest and recovery as part of the overall training picture by INCLUDING it as a form of training. This series of articles will look at how to recover immediately post-workout, what to do on your non-workout days, how to rest your body for maximum benefit, and how to implement recovery training into your overall plan.

Post-Workout Recovery

After a hard or long workout, be it a fartlek, tempo, or track session, your body is in a catabolic state where tissues have been broken down and muscle glycogen stores depleted. This is a good thing- the point of training is to break the body down, and allow it to come back stronger.

However, recovering properly from your challenging workouts will help your fitness level increase drastically rather than plateau.

  1. Immediately Following Your Workout – Okay. You are hands-on-your-knees-tired following that last hard interval, but your training for the day isn’t over yet!

    After completing a workout where a good deal of lactate accumulated in your muscles it is essential to warm-down properly. That doesn’t simply mean slogging to your car and driving home! Once you have recovered your breath, jog for a few minutes to get moving and then complete 2-4x 30-40sec Strides @ Half-Marathon-10K Race Effort. Recover with a minute of easy running between these strides, and then continue to jog for 10-15 more minutes, getting slower as you near the end of your warm-down.

    I know this sounds like a tall order following a hard workout, but trust me- you will feel far better the next day by organically, gradually allowing the body to return to homeostasis. This is best accomplished by revving the heart rate a few more times after a tiresome session to “flush” the lactate from your legs and reverse the effects of acidosis.

  2. The First 90min – One of the first steps to proper recovery from a hard session is dehydration. Your muscle fibers and joints will be lacking their usual suppleness due to lack of fluid, so drink 16-24oz of water or sports drink immediately after you finish your warm-down (depending on ambient temperature and personal sweat rate). This will continue to flush waste products from your legs and prepare the body to absorb your post-run fuel. Light stretching or some exercises for strength can also be completed during this time.

    The next step to your recovery plan is to begin refueling. If you can eat a good meal within 90min of exercising, you will be okay with a piece of fruit and a protein shake during this window of time (First Endurance’s Ultragen, Cytosport’s Muscle Milk, or low-fat chocolate milk are good choices). If you are more than 90min from a wholesome meal, then the below snack ideas will help you kick-start the muscle repair and glycogen restoration process.

    • The above fruit and shake plus a granola or cereal bar
    • Greek Yogurt with Granola, Dried Fruit, and Honey
    • A commercial protein bar (not low-carb), fruit, and sports drink
    • Or, a “healthier” candy bar (such as Snicker’s or Payday) and your protein shake
  3. Two-Hours and Beyond – Continue to drink fluids and eat every 2-3 hours for the remainder of your day. If possible, stretch before bed and do some self-massage on any tight spots from your workout (foam rolling, using products like The Stick, etc.). Avoid icing and NSAIDS post-run unless you have something acutely sore; they can inhibit your body’s natural recovery mechanisms and impede adaptation.
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