After a year or two of trial and error, well technically it would be more trial and not much error, because you can’t do this wrong (it’s only wrong if you wait), I’m finally confident enough to recommend the perfect recovery plan. It could change to how we weekend warrior’s get our bricks done and how runners recover from muscle soreness… Not a day or two later, no soreness later on that afternoon.
Do you stiffen up after a long run? Hips hurt? Calf muscles cramp? How about the next day, how are you feeling then? Worse? Usually. How about after a ride/run brick?
Now, if you have the patience of a saint and only increase your mileage a tenth of a mile per week (surely I’m exaggerating here, 10% per two weeks), you may be able to avoid nagging pain, but every runner I know goes through some recovery pain. You don’t have to. You can recover, at least soreness wise, in less than eight hours – and it’s very simple though a bit time-consuming.
The first trick is to eat after the run – I wait no more than fifteen minutes. Fire down a water afterwards and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can eat. Whatever you do, don’t wait more than thirty minutes. Second, eat a decent balance of carbs and protein. Then ride your bike for 45 minutes to an hour. Hard ride, easy ride, mountain bike, road bike – it doesn’t matter, what’s important is the cadence: 90-100, 110 if you can handle it. The timing between the run and the ride isn’t too important either, though you don’t want to wait more than a couple of hours. I get mine in within an hour of eating though… Now, if you’re paying attention you’re eating food at a very weird place – almost immediately after a run then follow that with a ride. This is not easy to get used to – especially when you have to dial that ride back a notch so you don’t throw up – happens to me almost every time. After I’m done with my ride, I’ll eat a little bit more and down a 32 oz Gatorade or PowerAde take a nice cool (or hot depending on the season) shower and then go about my day.
The first few hours after are a little ginger though you should absolutely feel worlds better than you normally do after a decent run. If you run in the morning, by that afternoon/early evening you should be right as rain and you may even feel ready to run again. Overnight you may tighten up a little bit again but you should feel worlds better than you normally do.
How did I happen on this marvel of a recovery plan? I wanted to train for triathlons and I live 10, 12 or 18 miles from my normal Saturday running spot (depending on the route I decide to take). To get in shape I started riding down to the running club and riding back. With a 10k run, that works out to the run and ride leg of an Olympic length every Saturday. As time went on I began to realize that I didn’t hurt so much after the ride home. Then I happened on several posts that recommended eating within an hour of finishing a workout. From there it was just a question of when to eat and how much so I wasn’t puking on the ride home.
I should mention that what I do is based only minimally on “research” with no professional recommendations – it was just an easy way to get to the running club and back while getting a couple of bike rides in on a normal run day. Lo and behold, my desire to get some extra miles in turned out to be a great way to recover after a run. My running buddy Grateful Jim backed this up one day last summer when we were talking about this very phenomenon I’d stumbled on – he said that his best marathon recovery occurred when he rode the marathon course after running it. He said he was almost fully recovered the next day and that he’d never had a better recovery period. Give it a try.