We aren’t exactly known for our patience, are we?
As runners, we seem to want to do everything faster.
- We know our race times down to the second and what pace we need to run to nail that next PR
- We want to speed up our progress by doing every workout as hard as we possibly can
- If we get injured, we want to heal up and get back to running ASAP
- After injury, we waste no time diving back into our training instead of easing into it
So it comes as no surprise that one of the most common questions I get from my fellow runners has to do with how one might speed up recovery after a race or hard training run.
Slow Down for a Minute
I get it.
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of taking time off and allowing my body to do the healing necessary after a race.
That idle time can really be a tough pill to swallow. Remember, the healing process takes some time physiologically, and allowing your body to do what it does is the only way for a full recovery to take place.
There is no magic cure all for post race soreness.
Sorry, there’s just not.
That said, there are certain things that we can do to help speed up the recovery process.
Methods to Speed Up Recovery
Some of these tips/tricks are more “pleasant” than others. That said, they can all help if you employ them correctly.
- Ice Bath: Not many people are fans of a good old fashioned ice bath, but in my experience they really help. The first few minutes are pretty brutal, but if you can get past the initial discomfort the majority of the 15-20 minutes really isn’t that bad. Now to be fair, I know of runners that have never done an ice bath before, so clearly it isn’t the only way to speed up recovery. But every time I’ve endured the cold, I’ve come out the other side feeling significantly better.
- Warm Bath w/ Epsom Salts: I’ve never done this, yet many people swear by the medicinal qualities of the epsom salt soak. I can list a handful of physiological reasons as to why warm/salty water, especially right after a hard run/race, shouldn’t help speed up recovery but too many people swear by this method for it to have absolutely no merit. I’m planning on trying this tactic myself as my mileage ramps up in the coming months, and I’ll be sure to report back on my findings.
- Easy, Low Impact Activity: A day or two after your race, you might find yourself itching to get back out there just to do something. If that is the case, some form of easy activity is probably your best bet. Jumping on the bike, going for a swim, or another non-running cardio activity can be great for getting the blood flowing to your muscles, which is a very good thing for the recovery process. Other low impact activities that can help to speed up recovery include yoga and pilates.
- Garbage In, Garbage Out: One of the most overlooked factors in speeding up the recovery process is what you’re putting in your mouth after a race. Look, I’m not going to try and tell Dave Metrick or Erika Howder that they can’t have a beer after a race. Shoot, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m going to have a beer after a race. But the food and drink that you consume in the hours and days after a race definitely play a role in how fast (or slow) your recovery process goes. Make the right choices and you’ll speed up recovery. Opt for a lesser quality of fueling sources, and you’ll be dealing with that feeling of heavy legs for a few extra days.
Patience is the Key
You can speed up recovery after a race, but at the end of the day the recovery process is just that: a process.
And as with just about any process, you have to let it play out.
And that requires some patience.
So as difficult as it can be to wrap your head around sometimes, taking it easy after a hard run or race is probably the single best thing you can do to speed up recovery.
What Are Your Go To Tips/Tricks for Speeding Up the Recovery Process?