It seems like the topic of recovery after a running or workout session has come up a lot lately in many different places from blogs to social media. As a 40-something runner, recovery has become more important to me over the years. When I was in my 20’s I don’t think I ever stretched and I know for sure I never used a foam roller or did any yoga.
Over the years, I also seemed to be plagued by running injuries, too. When I was an undergraduate in college I had shin splints that almost stopped me running completely, they were so painful. After picking running back up after a few years off, I had little aches and pains and minor running problems over the years but fortunately nothing serious.
One of the worst for me was struggling with a tight IT (iliotibial) band; this was around the time I started seeing a massage therapist regularly, which is one of the ways I recover from running (regular massage therapy). Massage therapy helps me to get rid of the knots and tight muscles that would otherwise continue to get worse and no doubt cause more serious issues. I get a deep tissue massage once a month and it’s one of the biggest reasons why I continue to run mostly pain-free.
I don’t remember exactly when I started going to the yoga class at my gym but I do know I was in my early 30’s. I had talked to some other runners who recommended yoga to me, so I naively went, not really knowing what to expect honestly. Over the years I’ve been a member of 3 or 4 gyms and have had probably around 10 different yoga instructors at these gyms. Yoga has undoubtedly kept my hamstrings and hips from just bunching into tight balls and refusing to do what I want them to do. I truly believe everyone would benefit from doing yoga once a week, whether you’re a runner or not. Believe me when I say not all yoga instructors are created the same, so if you go to a class and don’t care for it, try a different instructor and see if that changes your mind or try watching a show or DVD and doing it at home.
The foam roller and I have a love-hate relationship. I love how it loosens my tight IT bands, calves, quads, and hamstrings but I hate how painful it can be, especially on my IT bands. Nonetheless, I use my foam roller religiously after every run and have done so for years after my aforementioned problems with my IT band began in my 30’s. I also stretch my hamstrings and legs after a run, and have found it works best to stretch first then use the foam roller.
Another way I recover from a run is by refueling my body with carbs and protein. After reading Roar by Stacy Sims (you can see my book review here) I began to make sure I consume plenty of protein along with carbs after a run. In the book, Dr. Sims recommends women should take in protein high in leucine before exercise and within 30 minutes of exercising to help maintain muscle especially when hormone levels are high.
The final and most important thing I do to recover from the stresses of running is making sure I get plenty of sleep. I think getting enough restful sleep is hugely important for everyone, whether you’re a runner, cyclist, swimmer, or if you never exercise; we all need to get enough sleep every night. Our muscles repair when we’re not working them so we need to make sure they have plenty of time for that. I think probably everyone understands the importance of getting enough sleep but a lot of people underestimate just how much sleep they need and don’t make sleep a high priority in their busy lives.
What about you guys? I’m sure I probably left something out. How do you recover from running or exercise?