Today I am writing about some super important habits you can begin to incorporate into your running routine, to rid yourself of SORE MUSCLES that seem to pop up this time of year!
Most of you are in the midst of marathon training (so exciting!). And for a lot of you, that means you’re moving into a more challenging phase of your running routines, adding more intensity to your workouts, dropping time, running races...and your legs are feeling dead!
The following is the Post-Workout Routine I use (and the one I encourage my athletes in Faster Runner Academy to use), to make sure that I’m maximizing recovery and ridding my muscles of all the lactic acid building up so that for the next run, I am fully prepared to perform at maximum potential and continue to improve as a runner!
#1: HYDRATE (not just with water!)
When you come back from a run, the very first thing you should do is HYDRATE. And I don’t just mean with water! Drinking water is important, but remember that when you’re running, you lose a lot of water through sweat, especially in the heat of summer. Sweating means you’ll also lose a lot of salt and sugar content.
So, it’s really important to make sure you’re refueling with more than just water.
Other run coaches might encourage you to drink an electrolyte-packed drink like Gatorade; and yes, these are great when they’re necessary. BUT.
I encourage my runners to begin their post-workout recovery by adding some simple sugars with FRUITS AND VEGETABLES!
The more whole food nutrition you can use within your Run Training Plan, the better!
I drink lots of water, and then I eat things like watermelon, oranges, or bananas pretty soon after my workout, to make sure I’m properly hydrating my muscles so they can flush out the lactic acid build-up and avoid the soreness that might make otherwise make me wobbly when I walk.
#2: EAT FROM A POST-WORKOUT NUTRITION PLAN
I encourage my runners to have at least a basic, post-run nutrition strategy. There are two windows of post-workout recovery that you want to focus on; the first is immediately after your run. I strongly encourage my runners to get in a little snack (100-200 calories) within the first 30 minutes of their run.
Check out this blog for more specific information about What to Eat After a Workout!
And if you want more detailed information for what to eat, when, and how, I encourage you to check out my Carb Cycling for Runners Cookbook. This is an amazing resource that helps my runners know exactly what they should be eating during which times of the day.
Remember, getting faster isn’t just about running. Nutrition is sometimes even more important than other parts of your training plan, because that’s what gives you more energy and helps you get stronger and leaner so you can actually run faster. The foods you eat are what properly fuels your muscles, before and after a workout.
#3: PRACTICE MAINTENANCE EXERCISES
After I hydrate and eat to refuel, I focus (and I train my runners to focus) on maintenance exercises, meaning exercises that help aid recovery and prevent injury.
Often when we’re ramping up mileage, we get little aches and pains throughout the body. So I encourage my runners to do some kind of Post-Workout Maintenance Routine. We focus on strengthening the hips and lower legs, to basically focus care and concern on some key areas of the body, at least a few times per week.
#4: DYNAMIC STRETCHING
Then, we focus on a basic Dynamic Stretching Routine, something that includes things like leg swings, high or low skips, high knees, kick-butts, front lunges, diagonal lunges, etc.
Dynamic stretching includes movements that allow the lactic acid build-up to out of the muscles, which aids in muscle recovery.
It’s really important to do these stretches about 20-30 minutes post-run! And this whole routine (including the next step!) should take you about 10-15 minutes total.
Also, it’s important that you focus this stretching routine on your major muscle groups, like the quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips. You can also focus on anything that’s nagging or that felt sore during your run.
#5: FOAM ROLL YOUR MUSCLES
After you spend some time with Dynamic Stretching Exercises, then you can foam roll the same muscle groups.
Pay attention to the color-coded softness to hardness scales for foam rollers (most companies advertise white, then blue or gray, then black, on a scale of softest to hardest). If you’re starting for the first time, I recommend starting with the softest roller!
Regardless, foam rolling feels so painful in the moment...but it is SO GOOD for your muscles post-run! But again, make sure you’re focusing on those same muscle groups: the quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips.
(NOTE: I don’t encourage you to start foam rolling out of nowhere, without some help! There’s actually a certain way you should foam roll to maximize recovery and make sure you don’t hurt yourself or even bruise the muscle. Within my Faster Runner Academy, I actually have a full video that shows my runners exactly how to foam roll correctly!)
#6: TAKE AN ICE BATH
The next step, after maintenance exercises, dynamic stretching, and foam rolling, is to take an ice bath!
Again, this one probably isn’t enjoyable for you in the moment...but your legs will thank you later! This is HUGE in aiding muscle recovery.
HERE’S WHAT TO DO: Fill your tub with cold water, add some ice, and wait a few minutes, until the water reaches about 55-60 degrees F (basically, the ice cubes will start to melt a bit). Grab a towel (and maybe a snack from steps one and two!), and soak in the tub for about 10-15 minutes.
(You can also simulate a similar sensation using ice-cold towels wrapped around your legs, but this effect won’t be as great.)
The first three minutes are definitely the hardest! But after that, it becomes more enjoyable!
Some things you might focus on during the first few minutes include: the big goals you’re working toward (why are you doing this anyway?!), some things you’re grateful for, what you accomplished on today’s run, or maybe a race visualization, if you’re getting close to that point. Or, you might read a book or a magazine. Just do something that can help you stay in the tub!
After three minutes, remember to relax your legs and maybe stir up the water a bit, to maintain the temperature of the water (you want your legs to get the best effects of this soak!).
#7: APPLY MUSCLE RECOVERY LOTION
After you’ve dried from the ice bath, simply rub a muscle recovery lotion over your muscles.
I prefer Deep Blue Rub from doTERRA, which you can purchase here!
#8: EAT A REALLY GOOD MEAL
Within two hours after your run, plan to eat a really good, healthy meal. Think: whole food nutrition!
Again, check out this blog for more specific information about What to Eat After A Workout. Or you can check out my Carb Cycling for Runners Cookbook, for complete recipes and meal plans for runners!
#9: ENJOY A MASSAGE
Something I have really loved lately is getting a periodic massage to enhance the recovery of my muscles during training season!
Personally, I see a massage therapist twice per month to really flush out my legs, and it helps so, so much for muscle recovery! Of course, if you have the resources to get a massage more frequently, I say GO FOR IT! GOOD FOR YOU! And if you don’t have the resources to pay for a professional massage, maybe ask your spouse to help!
#10: TAKE A WARM BATH
Warm baths (or even warm showers) are also really good for muscle recovery in between runs (obviously after the ice bath!). Again, you can try the same thing with warm towels, but the effect won’t be as great (or enjoyable, really).
#11: GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
Your body does most of its recovery while you’re resting. That’s why I encourage my runners to practice intermittent fasting (which, of course, happens while you sleep!), because it allows your body to fully dive into muscle repair!
The body is constantly focusing on one of two things: either digesting food OR repairing cells.
When you take time to rest, when you’re not eating, you’re in a fasting state that allows your body to focus on repairing its muscles.
Try to sleep at least eight hours per night. I encourage my athletes to aim for 8-9 hours per night, to maximize their muscle recovery.
Woah. That’s a lot. Do you have questions for me? Do you practice other forms of post-workout muscle recovery? Tell me below!
And if at the end of all this you really feel like you need someone to guide you through these steps, I encourage you to check out my Faster Runner Academy! I have a great community of female athletes training for 5K’s, half, and full marathons! We would LOVE for you to join us! And I would LOVE to come alongside you, to write a specific plan to keep you going AND to coach you along the way!
If you have questions about these tips or working with me, reach out to my team! We would love to hear from you! Let me know how I can support your running, in any way possible!
Talk to you soon, friends!