Avid runners or bikers can attest to the fact that time on the trail and time on the road are two completely different experiences, physically. Vast expanses of back roads are great for establishing rhythm, endurance, and breathing techniques, while the ever-changing terrain of the trail will test your balance and strain your muscles to perform at different levels. Your run doesn’t end when you leave the trail, though, since at the end of a good trail run, those same muscles will be sore, and will require a bit of TLC. Keep reading to learn a few good tips to help your body recover after a day on the trail.
Aside from ice, recovering from a trail run properly entails a bit of massage and the right nutrition. After a run, I like to take a tennis ball (or a golf ball for concentrated pressure) and massage the muscles in my legs by rolling the ball on the muscles. You can also lie down on the ball and roll in tight circles to focus on tighter muscle areas. Not only does this help loosen those tight muscles, but it will also stimulate blood towards torn muscles, which speeds up the repair process.
Often times, runners experience soreness or swelling in their feet after a run. This is the result of metabolic waste that travels to your feet during the activity. A good foot massage or compression socks will help circulate the fluid away from your feet and have them feeling better in no time. Another effective method of expelling metabolic waste from your muscles—though a more extreme one—is taking an ice bath, which causes your muscles to contract and expel metabolic waste. Ten minutes in a tub with ice will do wonders against soreness.
One of the most important things you can do, in terms of stretching, is saving it for after the run, rather than before. However, normal stretching exercises won’t help as much as a few simple yoga poses. A friend and fellow trail runner utilizes several easy yoga stretches after she runs and swears that doing so eases soreness better than calf stretches ever did. If conventional stretches aren’t doing as much as you’d like, I suggest incorporating a few yoga poses the next time you head out.
Lastly, after a run you’ll need to replenish proteins and carbs that were expended during the activity. I like to blend a shake that contains a mixture of milk (almond or rice works well), protein powder (whey), frozen berries, oats, and green tea extract. Such a mixture acts as a catalyst for muscle recovery and will help you regain energy faster. Also, be sure to rehydrate by sipping liquids for a few hours after a run.
It’s easy to focus on the run itself as the most important aspect of the day, but it’s also crucial to understand that what you do after the run is imperative to a proper workout as well. Stretching properly, knowing how your body works after such an activity, and maintaining an effective nutritional recovery following a run will go a long way towards easing soreness and keeping you energized throughout the day, no matter what the trail throws at you.