How to Recover from a Hard Race or Run

Tips for Post-Run Recovery

Whether you just finished a race, tough speed workout, a really long run, you need to take care of yourself and make sure you're recovering properly. Here are some tips for recovering from races and long or hard runs.

Eat some carbs and protein.

Apple and peanut butter
Lew Robertson

Stick to a balanced diet with plenty of good carbohydrates and protein to help repair and rebuild those damaged muscles. And don't wait too long to eat something -- studies have shown that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (stored glucose) stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. Eating some carbs and protein (aim for a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein) soon after you run can help minimize muscle stiffness and soreness.

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Stretch post-run.

Calf Stretch for Runners
Mike Harrington/Getty Images

Post-run is the best time to stretch because your muscles are warm and flexible. But make sure you don't overdo it after a hard run or race. Gently work through each of these runners' stretches for 30 seconds on each side.


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Take an ice bath.

Dylan Ellis

Taking an ice bath is an efficient way to reduce inflammation and soreness in your entire body. Although it may not be totally enjoyable, some runners can tolerate it better if they go into the ice bath with clothes on or drink a hot beverage while in the tub. If you just can't tolerate an ice bath, use ice packs on especially sore spots, such as your quads and knees.

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Cross-train instead of running.

Blend Images - Dave and Les Jacobs

If you're feeling sore or fatigued, take a day or two off from running. That doesn’t mean you need to stop all activity. You can do low-impact cross training such as walking, biking, swimming, or the elliptical trainer to give your running muscles and joints a break while still maintaining your fitness. Even just going for a short walk is a great way to get the blood flowing and help your recovery.

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Go for a massage or do some self-massage.

Runner getting massage
Pinnacle Pictures

Massage is a great relief for muscle pain and stiffness -- just make sure the massage therapist keeps it gentle if you're really sore. You can also use a foam roller or other massage tool to massage tight spots.


Man sleeping
Jose Luis Pelaez

Getting plenty of rest is important for everyone who wants to lead a healthy lifestyle, but it's critical for a runner recovering from a hard run or race. Your body needs sleep to recover and repair itself. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep a night and be sure to listen to your body. If you're tired, take a nap if possible or try getting to bed earlier.

Also see:  Habits of Successful Runners

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