Whether you’re training for a marathon, half marathon, or just your very first race – there’s bound to be a few long runs on your calendar. Those distances probably sounds a bit intimidating at the beginning of training, but even so, what catches most runners by surprise is the impact of what they do post-long run. Long run recovery plays a key role in training.
How to Recover After a Long Run
Regardless of whether you’ve just completed a twenty miler during marathon training or your very first 8 mile run, long run recovery is now a priority.
The key to successful recovery after a long run is being intentional about your efforts. Simply slogging it out on the couch for the rest of the day won’t provide your body with the focused attention it needs to repair and recover.
Begin with a few light stretches immediately after your long run to jumpstart the recovery process. If the long run was very high in mileage or intensity, an ice bath can be a helpful recovery tool. Later in the day, focus your efforts on foam rolling, continued stretching and yoga. As time passes, transition to a more active recovery, which might include walking.
How long does it take to recover after a long run?
The timeline for long run recovery is different for every runner. The amount of time it takes to recover depends on the length of your run, the quality of training, your level of fitness, current state of health, and much more.
In general, most runners require at least one full rest day after a long run. During this time, only light activities such as walking or yoga are completed. Many runners find that it takes their body almost a full week to completely rid muscle soreness and return to maximum capacity.
Long run recovery is a bit more extensive than regular recovery after running. These higher mileage runs put our muscles and joints under stress for longer periods of time, increasing the potential wear and tear on our bodies.
However, with intentional recovery measures, we can be sure that our body adapts to the increased stress during long runs to build strength and endurance. Assisting our body as it recovers after a long run helps repair and rebuild – stronger than before.
While it might not be the most exciting, focusing on your recovery after running allows your body to successfully conquer a new distance each week without injury or overuse. You’ll gradually become stronger and build running fitness, setting yourself up confidence and ease on race day.
The Ideal Long Run Recovery Timeline
This post-run recovery timeline will walk you through exactly what to do in the minutes, hours, and days after a long run. These simple actions can greatly improve your body’s response to longer distances – helping you feel your best in the days and weeks to come.
Try implementing these long run recovery measures each week to help your body handle the stress of high mileage. It only takes a short amount of time to create a post-run routine that will take your training to the next level.
How to recover immediately after a long run:
- Cool down by a walking
- One of the worst things you can do is finish your long run and immediately sit down. Instead, provide your legs some time to cool down by walking a short distance before stopping movement all together.
- Drink water or a sports drink
- You probably lost a lot of sweat during your run, so make sure to rehydrate as soon as you finish! Sports drinks provide electrolytes and sugars that your body needs to replace what was lost on the run. Chocolate milk provides an excellent combination of carbohydrates and protein.
- Learn more >> Running Hydration: How Much to Drink and 6 Tips to Stay Hydrated
- Gently stretch your muscles
How to recover within half an hour post long run:
- EAT SOMETHING!
- You probably won’t be hungry for a huge meal, but eating something during this time period is crucial. Don’t force your body to take in more than it can handle, but prioritize getting a few calories in to help prevent feeling sick down the road. Whether you have a candy bar or carefully made protein smoothie – a few simple calories will do the trick.
- >> For ideas, try these 10 Delicious Post-Run Snacks
- Try the legs up the wall pose
- This simple yoga pose is easy to incorporate before heading to the couch. Propping your legs up against a wall helps prevent lactic acid from pooling in your legs, which may help prevent swelling or soreness in the hours and days to come.
How to recover within 12 hours of a long run:
- Continue to hydrate
- Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of liquid during your long run recovery period. Remember that you likely lost fluids in sweat while completing your long run, so you’ll likely need to drink more water than usual to rehydrate.
- If you struggle to stay hydrated, here is a surprisingly easy way to drink more water.
- Rest your legs…
- Just make sure you don’t slum it out on the couch for the next 24 hours straight. Take short, frequent walk breaks to keep the blood circulating, but make sure to take it easy on the activities while your body recovers after your long run.
- Foam roll
- Once your body is a bit more relaxed and has had a chance to cool down, take some time to foam roll your legs. Now that they have had a chance to rest a little, your muscles will likely be a bit tighter than usual. Foam rolling helps relieve any muscle adhesions and promotes blood flow and circulation.
- Try it out >> use these 8 Foam Rolling Exercises for Runners
How to recover one day after a long run:
- Go for a short walk
- Active recovery is a key element of any running recovery plan – but be careful not to overdo it. A short walk around the block is a great way to keep things moving and speed up recovery.
- Try some yoga
- Completing a few post-run yoga poses or a simple yoga routine the day after a long run is a great way to practice active recovery. The movement helps flush out the remaining lactic acid and loosen up those muscles that have tightened or may be sore.
- Try it out >> these 6 Post-Run Recovery Yoga Poses are great for after long runs
Long Run Recovery Tips for the Week After
- Ease back in to activity
- Whether you have one rest day planned or three, you’ll want to ease back in to activity. Begin with some active recovery, such as a walk or yoga routine, and gradually increase the intensity as your body tolerates it.
- Try an easy run or cross training before diving back in to any tough workouts or speed sessions
- Continue to stretch
- Stretching doesn’t come to a close on the day of your long run. You’ll likely experience some lingering muscle soreness in the days after a long run – which is your body’s cue that more stretching is necessary. Continue to make stretching part of your daily routine, even once things start to feel good.
- Listen to your body
- The most important thing you can do when it comes to recovery after a long run is to listen to your body. You might find that your body recovers quickly after one long run, but needs more time after another. Listen to your body’s signals and adjust your recovery timeline based on its cues.
Our bodies can do some incredible things, and completing a long training run is no small feat. Be sure sure to respect what you have accomplished by taking the time to complete this long run recovery timeline each time.
The better you recover from a long run, the better your body will feel for the next. You’ll gain strength, endurance and mental toughness each time. Before you know it you’ll feel fresh and ready to tackle some more miles.