Whether you’re a new runner or dedicated marathoner, proper recovery is a key component of any successful training program. It’s also one of the most ignored aspects of running. But in order to reap the rewards, you’ve got to treat your body right. “You want to reduce setbacks during training and prevent future injury,” says Under Armour pro coach Shayla Houlihan. “It’s really about completing a series of small things that add up.” Here’s how to do all those small things right.
Develop a Quick Cool-Down Routine
Before you change out of your kit, a few post-run exercises will help ease your body back to reality, especially after a particularly hard effort or tempo run. “If you add in five to ten minutes of drills after your run, you’ll be good to go,” Houlihan says. These can take a variety of forms, but Houlihan likes moves that counteract running’s linear plane of motion, such as lateral lunges, squats, and backward skipping.
Under Armour ultrarunner and trainer Crystal Seaver agrees: "It only takes a couple of minutes, but it makes a big difference in terms of kick-starting your recovery," she says. Seaver is diligent about adding some recovery movements to the end of every run. See the video below for her quick go-to cool-down flow.
Refuel the Right Way
Your cool-down session is a good time to start thinking about the refrigerator—or at least a quick snack. Registered dietitian Cara Harbstreet says that within that first hour post-run, you need some calories. “On a metabolic level, this is when your body is primed to absorb the nutrients you’ve lost,” she explains. This first hit of food should lean toward easily absorbed carbs such as fresh fruit, a serving of ready-to-eat cereal or oatmeal, or half a bagel or small English muffin. If you’re feeling queasy or lacking an appetite, anything from chocolate milk or a fruit-and-yogurt smoothie to a sports drink or a carbohydrate gel are good options, says Harbstreet.
Your first full meal after a run should include some higher protein content and good fat to further aid recovery. In general, says Harbstreet, this should be somewhere close to a three-to-one carb-to-protein ratio, but it’ll look different for each athlete. Mixed dishes like a sandwich, a burrito, or a pasta- or grain-based meal will contribute to an athlete’s absolute carb intake, which is more important than a specific percentage of total calories or grams. “A lot depends on your body’s tolerance and efficiency at using the nutrients,” says Harbstreet. Bottom line: Finding the foods that work for you will take some trial and error, but the effort will be worth it in the long run. Apps like UA's MyFitnessPal™, with built-in features designed to help you balance your food intake with your training output, can make this process much simpler.
Get Your Roll On
A great way to stretch out your tired muscles is with low-tech tools like foam rollers and lacrosse balls. In the midst of the pandemic, when regular massages and bodywork are out of reach, this time can be all the more valuable.
It doesn’t have to be an elaborate routine to work, says Houlihan. “Just a few minutes a day goes a long way,” she says. “It will reduce fatigue and get your muscles, tendons, and ligaments moving. If you find a particularly tender spot, hang out there for a little bit until it loosens.” Focus your rolling on high-use muscles like the calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
Limber Up Your Legs
Another great way to stretch out your legs is to add easy cross-training activity. A walk around the neighborhood, a relaxed 30-minute spin on the bike, or a dip in the pool can all help your legs flush out the junk and get you ready for your next effort, be it tempo, track, or a 20-miler.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Recovery needn’t be complicated, says Houlihan, and she points to one of the most obvious and easy tools in your box: sleep. “Get a solid seven to nine hours every night and let your body do the work,” she says. “Sleep can have a big impact on how well you recover.” Get even more from your Zs by wearing UA Recover sleepwear, made with mineral-lined fabrics designed to return infrared energy to your body, increasing blood flow and oxygen to recovering muscles.
And Finally, Find Your Optimal Rhythm
Don’t forget to space out your hard runs with easy runs in between. Let your UA HOVR connected running shoes keep you honest by checking your running stats, which seamlessly upload to UA MapMyRun™. Put it all together and you’ll go into your next run as if that tempo effort never happened.
Under Armour is a leading athletic performance apparel, footwear, and accessories brand. Powered by one of the world's largest digitally connected fitness and wellness communities, including MyFitnessPal™ and MapMyRun™, Under Armour's innovative products and experiences are designed to help advance human performance, making all athletes better. Learn more and shop at underarmour.com.