It’s easy to fall into the trap of skipping out on your post-run routine. After finishing up your miles, who wants to spend even more time stretching or completing strength exercises? When we’re rushed, it feels almost like a waste of time to come home and hunker down on your living room floor.
Having an effective post-run routine is essential for your success as a runner.
Despite our intuition, what we do after our run can have a drastic effect on how we feel during our runs. Maintaining a thorough post-run routine helps your body stay strong, cool down and recover regularly during any training season.
The actions we take post run influence not just how we feel for the rest of the day, but the strength of our muscles, our ability to stay injury-free, and help us get the biggest bang for our buck with each workout.
What should you include in your post run routine?
An effective post-run routine includes more than just a few recovery stretches. However, that doesn’t mean it needs to take you an extra hour to complete.
Running though a few beneficial exercises right after finishing your run might make the difference between your aches and pains resolving themselves in a few days or turning into prolonged injuries that force you to take time off from the sport.
A simple post-run routine might include:
- Strength exercises
- Foam rolling
Taking 15-20 minutes to cool down after a run is an effective way to ensure your body has time to recover, rebuild muscle, flush out built up lactic acid, and gain the most from each workout. Grouping a few beneficial post-run activities together into a daily routine helps you stay accountable and consistent with each workout.
Once the physical work of your run is complete, spending a few extra minutes on the floor is a great way to prioritize your health, recovery and strength during any training season.
Here is the perfect post-run routine to incorporate after every single run – and the best part? It takes 20 minutes or less to complete.
The Perfect Post-Run Routine in 20 Minutes
Post-Run Strength Exercises
- 5 minutes
Completing a few simple post-run strength exercises is a great way to stay strong and healthy during training. These exercises are beneficial in building muscles that are key to preventing injury and improving your running performance over time.
Start out by completing just 5-10 reps of each strength exercise post-run, and gradually increase as your body adapts over time. These exercises are simple, straightforward, and the perfect way to enhance your post-run routine.
This classic strength exercise is incredibly beneficial for building strength in the quadriceps and glutes. Stand with your feet about hip width distance apart, then send your hips back and squat down as if you were about to sit in a chair. Return to standing and repeat.
Lunges are another exercise that can provide a variety of strengthening benefits to your lower body. Step forward with one foot and bend at the knees. Continue until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and then straighten back to standing. Repeat with the opposite foot forward.
This exercise is a great way to shake out your muscles and keep the blood flowing post-run. Start by standing with your feet about hip width distance apart, and then bring one heel up towards your butt. Alternate feet by running in place, bringing your heels up as high as possible with each step.
The strength of our upper body can have a powerful effect on our running performance. Push ups are a great way to strengthen your arms, chest and back to pack extra power on the run. Start on your knees, and then place both hands on the floor.
Walk your feet back behind you to a straight-arm plank position, and then bend at the elbows to lower your body towards the floor. Try to avoid arching the back or dipping your hips while doing so, and keep your body flat like a board. Straighten your arms to return and repeat.
Free Download: 30 Day Push Up Challenge for Beginners
Planks are an incredibly beneficial strength exercise for runners. Including planks in your regular post-run routine promotes a strong core, back, chest, arms and legs. Place both hands on the floor and walk your feet out behind you. You can lower to your elbows or maintain a straight arm position. Hold this plank for at least 30-60 seconds.
Free Download: The Ultimate 30 Day Plank Challenge
- 5 minutes
When we envision a cool down routine, we most often think of post-run stretches. However, despite the fact that most of us know it’s important to stretch and cool down after a run, many of us skip it entirely.
Fitting a few minutes of stretching into your post-run routine is an effective way to help your body stay injury free during training. These stretches help loosen your muscles, promote blood flow and reduce lactic acid build up after a hard workout.
Hold each stretch for just about 30 seconds to help reduce muscle soreness and stay healthy after a run.
This simple lunge helps stretch out the hips and quadriceps, which are two areas that are notorious for bringing pain to runners on the go. Start by kneeling, and then step forward with one foot while keeping the other knee on the floor. Lean back and press your hands against your thigh if possible to accentuate the stretch.
A half split might sound like a complicated stretch, but is really quite simple and a great way to stretch those tight hamstrings. Begin by kneeling, and then extend one leg straight out in front of you while keeping your opposite knee on the floor. Lean forward with your upper body and reach towards the ankle of your extended leg.
Standing Quad Stretch
This quad stretch is a classic post-run stretch for runners – and for good reason. Our quads do a great deal of work during the run, and this is a simple, efficient way to stretch them out. Simply stand with your feet about hip width distance apart, and then lift one foot up towards your butt. Grab the foot and pull it in as close to your body as possible.
Standing Calf Stretch
Another popular post-run stretch is this simple calf stretch. Stand about a foot away from a wall or door, and then step forward with one foot. Drop the knee of your back leg slightly, leaning forward with your upper body until you feel the stretch in your calf. Repeat on both sides.
It’s easy to overlook the muscles in our feet when we get back from a run, probably because they are so small in comparison to the other muscles in our lower body. But our feet and ankles do a great deal of work on the run, and toes pose is a great way to stretch them out and help prevent plantar fasciitis.
Begin by kneeling with your toes touching the floor behind you. Sit back on to your heels and feel the stretch in the bottoms of your feet.
Post-Run Cool Down
- 10 minutes
Aside from stretching, there are a variety of other activities you can add to your post-run routine to helping your body cool down. Once your muscles are relaxed, spending a few minutes working out any hot spots, refueling and reflecting are all effective ways to cool down and recover after a run.
While these activities may feel a bit unnecessary after already spending a few minutes strengthening and stretching, walking through each of them will greatly enhance your recovery and overall health during a training season.
Dedicating just 10 minute of time to these last few cool down activities post-run will help take your running performance to the next level.
Spending a few minutes with the foam roller is a great way to help work out any hot spots that may have appeared during your run.
Find any spots that might feel tight or knotted and spend some time putting pressure on these areas. Roll out your calves, IT band, hips, glutes, hamstrings and your back to help rejuvenate your tired muscles.
If you feel a spot that is particularly tender or tight, hang out there for a few seconds on the foam roller to promote blood flow to the area from the extra pressure.
All athletes know that they need to stay hydrated, but even so, this seems to be such an easy step to skip when time is crunched. Incorporating hydration into your post-run routine will help ensure you stay consistent during training.
Make a point to fill up your water bottle with ice cold water during your post-run routine to drink as you complete strength exercises, stretch, foam roll and refuel. If water isn’t your thing, there are many different delicious recovery drinks that are packed with electrolytes to help you enjoy the process a bit more.
We often think of fueling on the run, but forget about the importance of refueling after the run. Grabbing a quick snack that is packed with protein and healthy sugars within 30 minutes of finishing your run will provide your muscles with the fuel they need to rebuild and get stronger.
Prepare a smoothie ahead of time or grab one of your favorite snacks as a post-run treat.
The final addition to your post-run routine comes in the form of journaling. Keeping a running journal, log or simply tracking your data in an app is a great way to stay accountable, chart your progress and keep track of workouts.
If you choose to journal about your workouts, you’ll be able to reflect on the running conditions, what went well, what didn’t, what ached, and how you felt mentally. These reflections can help you improve on future runs and become a better runner in no time.
While it’s true that a majority of the hard work is done when we are actually running, most of what we gain happens after the run is over. Take advantage of those first few minutes post-run to incorporate some beneficial activities that will really improve your performance.
Making a routine of these simple, post-run activities might seem like it won’t make a difference in the long run, but you might be surprised by the effects. These simple, regular actions repeated consistently after each run will gradually add up to help you become a strongest, healthier, more effective runner than ever before.
Further Reading: 30 Easy Ways to Become a Better Runner