A couple weeks ago I shared a pre long run checklist with you, and today I have a post long run checklist for you. After a long run, especially in the oppressive heat and humidity of summer, many runners easily skip over the key steps for jumpstarting recovery.
We all get that mental fog and runger after a long effort, so post long run checklist will keep you on track to recover well and make the most of all your hard work in the long run. After all, recovery after the workout is just as important as the workout itself!
For experienced marathoners and half marathoners, the items on this list may already be second nature after a long run. But action never develops into a habit unless you deliberately repeat the actions several times, which is why a post long run checklist is beneficial for newer marathoners and half marathoners or those coming back to the distance after time off: following a list, run after run, eventually create a habit.
Post Long Run Checklist
1. Elevate Your Legs
Once you return home from a long run, sit down and pop your legs up against the nearest wall or chair. By keeping your legs elevated for 5 minutes after a long run, you quicken your body’s return to homeostasis. Elevating your legs on the wall improves circulation and thus prevents blood from pooling into your legs, stretches your hamstrings and calves, and gets you off of your feet for a few minutes.
Okay, this one should go without saying (although I’m sure we can all admit to skipping showers after workouts). But how you shower can impact your recovery. The benefits of ice baths are debatable, but a 30-60 seconds of cold showering at the end of your shower can improve your circulation and will help you regulate your body temperature after a hot, sweaty summer.
Runger: it’s the bane of every marathoner and half marathoner’s existence during those 12-20 weeks of training. One of the most effective methods for preventing runger is to eat a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein within 60 minutes after your workout.
Many studies, nutritionists, and coaches promote a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. While you don’t need to pull out a calculator and crunch numbers, aim for combination of nutritious carbohydrates (minimally processed over refined carbs) and lean protein. Some healthy fats are great for satiation and flavor.
Need some ideas? Check out these post run breakfasts!
Reaching for a bowl of ice cream or a huge plate of refined flour waffles may sound great after a long run, but sugary and refined carbs may not be the ideal choice. The high sugar content may only upset your stomach (since many runners experience sensitive stomaches after running in the heat or for a prolonged period) or you may find yourself crashing from the sugar shortly later and hungry again within a couple hours. If you crave sweets after a long run, save them for later and have something more substantial first.
If you have plans to meet some friends for brunch or lunch after your run, have a snack to start glycogen replenishment and muscle recovery. By the time you shower, change clothes, and meet them, the 60 minute window will have likely passed. Plus, this will prevent you from being ravenous by the time you order your food.
4. Water + Electrolytes
Summer running and sweating might as well be synonyms. You lose electrolytes (calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium) through sweat, which means you lose more electrolytes on a hot summer run than a chilly spring run. Electrolyte imbalances can cause dehydration, fatigue, cramping, GI distress, and worse.
I don’t recommend Gatorade or traditional sports drinks for after a long run, because of their high sugar content and questionable ingredients. Nuun and Enduropacks both offer virtually calorie-free and natural electrolyte supplements that you can easily add to a glass of water after your run.
You can also drink plain coconut water after a run for electrolytes! Just make sure you either add a pinch of sea salt or include salt with your post-run meal, since coconut water does not contain a significant amount of sodium. Opt for plain coconut water if you’re monitoring your sugar intake.
Want to learn more about electrolytes, fueling, hydration, and pre, mid, and post run nutrition? Sign up today for my Master Your Fueling and Hydration e-Course!
5. Drink Tea or Coffee
Some studies such as this 2008 study in The Journal of Applied Physiology have concluded that taking caffeine in the form of coffee or tea after may promote better glycogen resynthesis. In non-scientific study terms? Coffee or tea after a run may help your body better replenish its carbohydrate stores (glycogen) which you used during your run. While some studies suggested the affect is negligible so long as you were consuming enough carbohydrates after a run (see above), coffee or tea after a run won’t harm you, so why not take advantage of the possible benefits?
If you find that coffee upsets your stomach after a run, try a black caffeinated tea such as Earl Grey. Tea is gentler on the stomach and less of a diuretic than coffee is. If a hot beverage sounds absolutely unpalatable after running in the heat for several hours, opt for iced coffee or cold brew.
6. Foam Roll
Foam roller may feel like a medieval torture device on sore muscles after a long run, but your future self will thank you for using it after your run. A foam roller allows you to perform self-myofascial release on your muscles, which releases adhesions (knots) from the fascia (connective tissue) of your musles. As a result, you will reduce any delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and feel better on your next run.
7. Take a Walk
The sofa may feel like your best friend after an 18 miler, but remaining completely sedentary for the rest of the day will make you feel sluggish and stiff. A couple short 10-15 minute walks will keep your blood flowing, loosen up any stiff muscles, and give you a natural boost of energy.
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Linking up with Coaches’ Corner!
What are your priorities after a long run?
How do you recover after a hard workout?