Weekend rhymes with ‘long run’ for most runners. There is nothing more exciting than putting some heavy mileage in your legs. Long runs are an important milestone for new long-distances runners. Whether you are training for your first Marathon, ultra-run, or you are facing your first ever long run, know that you can achieve it.
And once it’s done, take a moment to immortalise your achievement with a picture! But... what’s next? The “after run steps” are important, and this is something I’ve learned while training for my first marathon. I know now that ‘after’ is as much as important than ‘before’.
At the beginning of my long distance runner journey, I neglected the importance of my post run routine, believing that few minutes of stretching, coffee and a croissant at the closest cafeteria was more than enough. “I’m fine, I don’t feel any pain Alhamdulillah” I said to myself. Below I share some self-learned hints that I think many runners approaching long-distance challenges can benefit from.
JUST AFTER RUN.
Refuel and rehydrate: sports drinks, water, proteins snacks, banana, dates, even chocolate. Replenish your body’s depleted glycogen levels, electrolytes, sodium, and fluids.
Change your clothes! Take off those sweaty gear and put on dry clothes: it will help blood and nutrients circulation through your body quicker for a speedy recovery.
Do your stretching: 10 mins minimum of static stretches focusing on muscle groups like hamstrings, quads, glutes, hip flexors, and low back can vastly reduce post-run fatigue, helping you feel loose and strong for next run. The roll foam is a valid tool, keep it always next to your yoga mat. Wear sandals or slippers, what a big relief for your feet!
1 HOUR AFTER RUN.
Healthy and nourish food. Choose lean protein, as well as complex carbohydrates, fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. I sometimes opt for a supplement of Vitamin B12, C and Magnesium, it’s a good and easy way to be sure that I’m replenish my stores.
THE EVENING AFTER THE RUN.
Have a good restoring sleep. Sleeping is such an underrated part of an effective recovery routine. Try your best to go to bed early and give your body the chance to heal itself, repairing muscle damage and continuing to move toxins out of your body. A good sleep after a long run should last between 7 and 9 hours a night. If possible, avoid the alarm clock for at least one day.
THE DAY AFTER THE RUN.
Listen to your body. Generally, runners have an easy short run (about 20 or 30 mins at easy pace that you can talk with your buddy or by phone). But you can try a complementary form of cross training, recommended by experts: swimming, biking or yoga. These activities will increase blood flow, decrease feelings of sore and tight muscles and speed up the recovery process. Spend more time on stretching and use the foam roll.
Meal time: make half your plate fruits and veggies, and the other half lean protein. And keep drinking plenty of water, if the weather is hot, don’t forget your electrolytes.
LONG-TERM RECOVERY PLAN.
Days-off. Consider to have one or more days (up to 2 weeks) off of running. I know this idea sounds hard to be applied, as runners we enjoy running. But the benefits of a long term recovery plan will give your body and your mind the right time to restore and return to a normal state of health. Don’t forget that during a long run, not only your muscles, ligaments and bones are under stress. Your mind is as well. A proper recovery will be beneficial for your body, but even it will avoid the risk of a burnout.
Heart Rate and breath. Monitor your resting heart rate every day and check your breathing while exercising: if you notice your RHR is elevated and you’re huffing during easy routines, these are signs that you need some extra days off.
Moods. Last but not least, pay attention to your moods. If you feel depressed and/or irritable without a valid reason, it may be the sign that you still need few days off. Relax, rest and enjoy your training.
Stefania Di Santo
Mom/Teacher from Al Khobar
Age group: 45
Club: Khobar Running Crew