Last Sunday, I ran 18 miles. Today – only six days later, which is kind of blowing my mind – I covered 20. My legs were aching by mile 16, but I was surprised by just how good I felt given the short time span between these two long runs and the fact that my right knee has been rather cantankerous during previous marathon training efforts. This time, it seems to be on board with the entire thing. KNOCK ON WOOD.
Based largely on conjecture and personal observation, I’m crediting this feat to my plant-based diet and my post-long run recovery strategy. The recovery strategy is one I’ve cobbled together using previous experience and advice from other runners. I don’t pretend that it’s entirely scientific, but it’s working for me so I’m sharing it.
It looks something like this:
1. Immediately after the long run, I hobble to my car and spend several minutes stretching, rehydrating, and chowing down on whatever comestibles I’ve packed into my running bag. Today it was salty crackers, a banana, an apple, a granola bar, and water spiked with grapefruit-flavored Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes.
2. By the time I get back to the RV, the main thing I’m thinking about is food. I eat everything that isn’t battened down. This afternoon I inhaled leftover potato-bean stew, celery, some crackers, and a protein shake (and that was just Round 1). If possible, I gorge on leafy greens, too, because they’re full of antioxidants and help combat inflammation.
3. I squeeze myself into compression socks. According to at least one scientific study, compression helps with recovery. Also, I just like how they look and feel – basically as if they are holding my calf muscles together, which at that point is a comforting sensation.
4. I ice my knees and sometimes my ankles, usually using whatever bags of food are available in my freezer. As far as I can tell from an embarrassingly quick Google search, experts disagree on whether it’s a good idea. I don’t know. It works for me.
5. I rest and elevate my legs. This step involves a little more frozen kale, more snacks (MOOOORRRE FOOOOOOD), plenty of wasted time on Facebook, and a healthy dose of Netflix.
6. I drink a beer. I’m going to take this Runner’s World piece as the definitive article on beer as a helpful recovery tool.
7. I stretch. I’ve been trying to up my yoga game in the last few weeks as a way to help develop flexibility and strength and aid in recovery. It feels great and really seems to make a difference in my mobility the next day.
8. I exercise the next day. That usually involves walking and some form of strength training, particularly core work. Sometimes I go on a very short run – three miles or so. The main goal, though, is simply to get the blood flowing.
Tell me: What are your tried-and-true recovery tips?