Last Updated on January 22, 2022 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Thank you Biofreeze® for sponsoring this post. Biofreeze® is also available for purchase in retail. Click here to find a store near you.
When I was a 20-something year old adult, I lived on a junk food. Don’t just take my word for it, scroll back to posts from the early days of this blog when I professed my love for Mountain Dew and Hostess cupcakes. Truth be told, this is not uncommon for young adults in our society: they are finally free from the watchful eye of mom and dad, and therefore can grocery shop solely in the frozen pizza bagel bites aisle if they so choose.
And I did.
But another common reality of that aforementioned scenario is that eventually, it catches up with you. Whether it is in the form of unwanted weight gain, feeling lethargic, or both, you eventually realize that you have to eat well and take care of your body. Both of those things happened to me as well.
For me, this theory also applies to my post run recovery routine. When I was younger, my training routine consisted of running…and that’s it. I didn’t stretch, I didn’t work on mobility, I didn’t strength train, and I certainly didn’t think about taking any immediate post-run recovery steps, other than sit on the couch and veg out. But these days, I have no choice. If I want to “chase buckles” as my coach calls it, and throw down high mileage weeks and back to back long runs injury free, there are a number of steps BEYOND smart running that I need to take to ensure my success. Here’s the routine I try (I’m not perfect) to follow after every long run:
1) Hydration /Nutrition
The *very* first thing I do after a run is assess my hydration status and caloric deficiency. It gets ridiculously hot and humid here in Myrtle Beach, and I’ve learned that if I don’t almost immediately start replenishing my electrolytes and water, I’ll feel miserable all day long. Next, because I’m one of those people who get “rangry” when my blood sugar drops too low, I usually eat something small and nutrient dense as soon as possible. I find that immediately addressing my hydration and nutrition not only makes me a more enjoyable person to be around (just ask my husband), but it truly does help stave off delayed onset muscle soreness.
2) Foam Rolling / Massage
In the past, these torture devices never appealed to me…until I started using them regularly and discovered their benefits. I’ll be the first to admit that I haphazardly began this new routine out of convenience: we have an amazing tub full of Trigger Point and Addaday rollers at work, and plenty floor space for me to use them. While the science on the effectiveness of foam rolling seems to change daily, I have noticed on a personal level that it really helps me loosen up after a long run. It often hurts, and I usually hate it, but it helps.
3) Biofreeze® Topical Pain Relief
Post shower (or let’s be honest, post shower wipes, if I’m in the store and can’t get home), I immediately reach for Biofreeze®. I’ve been a fan of Biofreeze® since my days of high school soccer, when you could only get your hands on the stuff if Luna, the high school athletic trainer, was around with her toolbox full of tape and icepacks. The cooling effect of the menthol always provided immediate pain relief to sore soccer joints and muscles. Back then and even more recently, Biofreeze® was only available through healthcare professionals, but now is available for purchase over the counter in stores (you can find it locally using their store locator. Biofreeze Professional, however, must still be purchased through your hands-on heathlcare professional.)
I’m not a huge fan of popping over the counter pain relievers, but still need something to take the sore muscle edge off. Biofreeze® products a safe and effective pain relief alternative because they are non-systemic, non-narcotic, and contain no NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), salicylates or addictive substances. The menthol in the Biofreeze® provides a cooling effect that works almost instantly, and is significantly more enjoyable than sitting around in an ice bath. I wrote that miserable recovery method off long ago.
Now, back in my soccer days, it was only available in a green gel. Today, Biofreeze® comes in both its signature green and colorless (dye-free) formats, and even better, comes in”touch free” spray and roll on application options. These are perfect for on the go pain relief for sore muscles. Bonus: Biofreeze® isn’t tested on animals. This matters in our house.
4) Active Recovery
A common mistake I see among athletes is that they immediately go home after a long run, place themselves on the couch, and stay there for hours, either napping, watching TV, or both. It’s easy to do, and often feels justified, especially after a multiple hour long run. Personally, I find that if I keep moving throughout the day after a long run, my body recovers much faster, and I wake up the next morning with significantly less soreness. Active recovery helps promote blood flow to the muscles. More blood flow = more oxygen to the affected muscles, and faster removal of waste products that might contribute to soreness. Conveniently, I often have to work after my long runs, which keeps me on my feet for another four or five hours instead of succumbing to the couch.
In addition to these four post run activities, I’ve found (again, through trial and junk food error) that adequate rest (both sleeping and rest days) paired with balanced, healthy nutrition also help contribute to less soreness and faster recovery times. And of course, a solid training plan that properly builds up mileage.
Past runner me can’t believe how responsible and mature current runner me sounds. Who would have guessed.
So, there you have it, my post run recovery methods. It’s certainly not rocket science, but instead small steps that, for me, add up to big results. I’d love to hear your post run recovery routine, please share in comments below!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.