What are the Best Recovery Activities and Foods for Runners?
In any group of runners you will find great variety – each person can be starting from a different fitness level, aiming for a different distance, have various dietary requirements and like a whole range of foods, drinks and activities.
Having said that there are a couple of things that we can all do to maximise our recovery to give our bodies the best chance to feel great and be ready for the next training session.
Whether you are starting out on your first couch to 5k run program, training for a 100k ultramarathon or anything in between you must have, no exceptions, a stretching routine you do twice a week or more either after your run, in front of the TV at night or when you have a quiet 20mins to yourself. Unfortunately there is no way round it, if you don’t stretch at all, you will eventually get injured.
At a very basic level – when you exercise your muscles contract, stretching gives them length and the ability to move freely.
If you really can’t make yourself do a stretching routine why not grab a friend and go to a yoga class together once a week. This way you’ll enjoy some time with a friend and ensure your body gets the recovery that it needs.
Cold Water Plunge
It may sound extreme but for those doing longer runs plan to jump in some cold water like the beach, pool or cold bath after your run. Just 5 minutes in cold water can reduce the inflammation in your muscles and aid your recovery. In the winter months you can wear a jumper, scarf, beanie and gloves in the water if you need to, but strip down your legs after your run and take the plunge – you’ll be thankful for it afterwards.
There are various products you can buy and some of the better ones are a hard massage ball and/or a stretching roller that you can perform a self-massage routine with. It can be painful when you start out but you’ll soon find relief when you work through the tight spots which will enable you to keep training.
Epsom Salt Bath
Vlad Shatrov, Runlab founder and trainer says he likes to keep this recovery technique for after particularly hard sessions or events.
“A warm bath with Epsom salts is a treat that l like to give my body after a particularly hard training session or event.
“I like to keep it as an indulgence that I only have every 4-6 weeks and that way it feels like a real luxury. It relaxes the muscles and takes away those aches and pains that can be niggling at you.”
Best Food for Recovery
Vlad Shatrov says like so many things when it comes to recovery food, preparation is key.
“As a general rule you won’t need to have a snack ready to go immediately after your training run unless you are running for more than an hour at a time,” said Vlad.
“For those longer runs you need to think ahead and have something ready to eat or drink within 30mins of finishing your run.
“Having the snack in liquid form rather than food can make it easier to absorb and quicker to ingest – but it is up to your own personal preference.”
The types of food that you can have ready to go should include mostly carbohydrate and some protein, for example:
• Flavoured milk
• A banana
• Bowl of cereal with milk
• Recovery shake
• Bread/toast with jam or honey
• Cereal bars
Being a runner is not just about the time that you spend out pounding the pavement or trails. If you want to be able to achieve a goal you have set or just keep running each week you need to think about how to give your body a helping hand to maintain the activity. Look after your body and it will thank you for it.