Now that I’m up in the mid-teens with my long-run mileage, optimal recovery becomes highly important. So what are the best ways to recover from your long runs?
1. Refuel. There is a 15-minute post-exercise window when your muscles will absorb glycogen maximally. Take advantage of this by having a bottle of a carb loaded drink handy after your run. My drink of choice is low-fat chocolate milk. It has the ideal ratio of carbs to protein (4:1) to refuel your muscles post-workout. Plus it tastes good, and makes me feel like a kid again! Other options are sports drink, protein recovery drinks, or if your stomach can tolerate solid food, a bagel or banana and peanut butter.
2. Re-Hydrate Hopefully you stayed adequately hydrated during your run, but even if you did you will need to focus on replenishing lost fluids. Sports drink are a good option because they hydrate and replenish lost electrolytes. Rule of thumb: continue to drink fluids until urine is clear.
3. Ice. Jumping in an ice-bath or cold lake post-run can help speed recovery by reducing inflammation in the legs. You can also just let the cold water run on your legs in the shower. If you have particularly sore areas or are recovering from an injury, massage with an ice cup is a good idea. http://www.sports-injury-info.com/ice-massage.html
4. Stretch and roll. One of the keys of my post-run recovery is stretching out muscles that have tightened up and massage with a foam roller. Legs up the wall is also a favorite post long-run pose to help remove achiness and fatigue from your legs.
5. Compression. Wearing compression socks is one of my favorite post long-run recovery tricks. Studies show they can help reduce post-workout muscle soreness by increasing circulation to promote healing.