Every runner can expect to feel some muscle soreness after a run. You will feel aches and pains every time your body takes on new challenges. As there is always room to improve, aches will always occur whether you are just starting to run, working towards a new fitness goal, or upping the ante on your running distance.
But while this soreness is normal, there are some cooldown strategies you can adopt to ease aches and prevent muscle stiffness. Some are great for replenishing nutrients, while others aid in the repair and building of muscle. As you go through the list of strategies below, experiment with them to find what works best for your body.
7 cooldown strategies for a post-run recovery
The fastest way to ease sore muscles is to practice your cooldown steps immediately after a run. You might find that incorporating multiple recovery strategies into your cooldown can be more effective than just doing one at a time.
- Dynamic warmup routines
Dynamic stretches or exercises help keep your joints and muscles flexible. The more flexible you are during a run, the wider your range of motion and lesser your chances of getting an injury. Plus, once those muscles are activated, you’ll have better balance and mobility on your run. You should also do dynamic exercises on days when you are not running to maintain momentum. After all, less strain during runs leads to an easier recovery.
- Exercise and marathon nutrition
It’s important to fuel your body from the inside out. You should replenish the carbs, protein, water, and also sugars lost during a run. As for all your other meals throughout the day, think of them as opportunities to provide key vitamins and minerals that an active body needs. Always prioritise whole foods and avoid processed ones if possible to aid your muscles’ recovery and growth. Running gels are also great mid-marathon nutrition to keep you going strong.
- Drink plenty of water
Water is perhaps one of the best things you can give a runner. After all, it is said that dehydration is a leading cause of fatigue and muscle soreness. WIthout nutrients and water, your muscles begin to contract and tighten, leading to bodily stiffness and pains. So make a point to rehydrate before and after a run, as well as throughout your day. Eating foods rich in electrolytes also boosts your body’s ability to take in and retain water.
- Do some yoga
On your rest days, try to fit in some yoga poses. Research has shown that doing just a few minutes of yoga a day can help lower stress levels, stretch your muscles, and relieve muscle aches. By releasing tension in your body, you can avoid feeling sore and stiff after a run. Also, doing stretches that target underused muscle groups can help strengthen your body and lessen your risk of getting injured. Plus, by becoming more flexible, your stride length and speed can increase.
- Treat yourself to a massage
If you’re not someone who can relax easily, think of a massage as a part of your fitness routine. But unless you are a celebrity athlete, the costs of going to a professional masseuse can add up. Luckily, there are a ton of at-home ways to relieve muscle tension with a few simple tools. Foam rollers are inexpensive and easy to store, compression socks can lower the lactic acid buildup, while a simple tennis ball is a convenient tool you can use to massage your legs and feet. And if you want a tool that does it all, invest in a portable massage gun for some thoroughly relaxing deep muscle treatment.
- Elevate your legs
When you perform high-intensity exercise for long periods of time, lactic acid accumulates in your muscles and makes them feel heavy or as though they are burning. When you’ve finished a set or are in need of a rest, prop your legs up so the lactic acid buildup can decrease.
- Take a bath
Depending on what you want to draw out of your body after a run, you can choose to take different types of baths. During a run, if your muscles have depleted your glycogen stores but you decide to keep pushing through, you become at risk of getting bodily inflammation. To help reduce the immediate symptoms of inflammation that leads to muscle soreness, jump into a bathtub full of ice. On the contrary, taking a warm bath after a run can help your body release any tension that it held during exercise. Add 3-4 cups of epsom salts to a warm bath if you want to get the relaxing and tension-reducing benefits of magnesium.
Immediate and long-term muscle discomfort
While you can choose between physiotherapy and at-home massage, ice or a warm bath, foam roller or a portable massage gun, these are just immediate solutions to mild muscle discomfort. There is a noticeable difference between what is an easily treatable muscle ache and a more sinister pain.
As muscle soreness is very normal after a run, take note of any sharp, stabbing pain that doesn’t go away. If the pain is still contained to one area and doesn’t go away after a day of rest, seek professional advice. With that said, building a healthy prevention and recovery routine can keep you running well and in comfort.