Post-Long Run Recovery

Runners talk a lot about running long runs and races and all that jazz, but I hear very little about what happens after you stop running. Most professional athletes are taught to respect the recovery as much as the run, and so should you! Recovery is where the growth takes place and without growth there will be no progress.

If I’m honest, the first thing I do after a long run is go to the corner store next to our apartment and get drinks and whatever food sounds good. Sometimes it’s watermelon, sometimes it’s pita chips. Because I sweat more than the average bear (it’s true: in yoga class the other day I was the only girl who looked like it was raining down on her; true story), I tend to crave salty items pretty much immediately. I don’t judge after a long run. And also, the Diet Lemonade Ice Tea from Snapple has been calling my name recently.

The perfect lunch. I had a sandwich, too, but it didn't make it to the photo shoot...

Most people jump into the shower first. Not me. Reason? Well, I am sensitive to dips in my blood sugar and once my body realizes I’ve stopped running and my sympathetic nervous system chills out, my parasympathetic nervous system takes over and the first thing it does is totally freak out because I haven’t eaten in a very long time. How do I know this? Oh, I do this very lovely little thing where I get very dizzy and nauseous and it usually ends with my gorgeous husband shoving some carbohydrates down my throat so that I don’t pass out. Very sexy indeed. So, I’ve learned my lesson. Food first.

The very simplest rule of thumb for post-endurance activities is eat whatever you can tolerate first, since your stomach is probably not the most inviting place on Earth. Second, eat protein within about a half an hour to get those amino acids flowing to your muscles for rebuilding. You see, in order to achieve optimal (and speedy) recovery time, your body needs protein right away. Not so appealing, I know, but very necessary.

I’ve recently found that because the temperatures are so high at the end of my long runs, I am desperate for a slushy immediately after I stop. I mean within seconds. So, I’ve tried a slightly (I mean, ever so slightly) healthier version in navigating the end of my runs so that I am nearby a Jamba Juice. You health nuttys out there are going to tell me there’s sugar in those drinks. I know. That’s what I’m going for! I need a little pop of sugar and something that easily digests in my stomach to boost my blood sugar levels and get me home. It helps that it’s sweet and cold, too!

Mmmmm...Mango-a-Go-Go!

I keep hard-boiled eggs in my fridge and having been loving egg salad (2 eggs, please) on a piece of whole grain bread lately. It’s a perfect combination of basic carbohydrates and pure protein to fuel my post-long run body. Along with Cedar’s amazing Fresh Bruschetta with Stacy’s Simply Salt pita chips and some cantaloupe, I have covered all my basics. Now onto the shower.

Oh, wait. No. Cold water bath first. I know, so totally not appealing at all, but necessary to prevent excess inflammation, edema and speeding recovery of those beat-up muscles. I do a cold water bath instead of an ice bath because, well, my freezer is small and I have very little ice in there. Whatever. Cold water bath is better than nothing. I save the ice water baths (with ice!) for post-marathons. I know to some (ahem, JB) it may seem grotesque to not shower immediately upon arriving home after a very sweaty, very hot long run, but I know my body and my body needs food first.

Bottom line, you need food after your run. Sorry if you’re one of those sour stomach people after you work out, but you reeeeeally should consider eating anything you can scarf down. It’ll help your recovery and keep you from getting the dizzies later. Protein, carbs and some fruits and veggies if you can! Get it all in there! Rehydrate all day long, not just immediately after, to make sure you aren’t depleting your body further of its most precious reserve. Well, most precious aside from oxygen, I suppose. I digress. Ice bath if you can take it, cold water bath if you can’t (or if you have no ice). Trust me. 15 minutes. It helps.

After that, feel free to take a little snooze! I tend to curl up on the couch next to JB and fall dead asleep if it’s more than 12 miles. But, the most important thing is to be sure to get up at some point in the day and take a little walk. Muscles soreness can be more severe if the blood supply to them is low, ie. you are a couch potato all day. So, grab your dog or your friend and take a stroll. I like to head uptown to 16 Handles, which is about two miles from our apartment, but that’s just me. I love a reward!

Whatever you do, listen to your body and treat it with love and respect. After all, it just took you on a long run. The least you can do is listen now!

Now go out and run! Or, if you already ran, take a walk 😉

Exercises To Do This Week

Some people are of the mind that they have to be in a gym to work out. I am not one of those people. Sure, a gym is great for so many exercises, but it’s not always a requirement. Sometimes all you need is a Thera-band and the will power to get it done.

Side Lunge

Side lunges are great for your glutes, hip rotators and quadriceps. It’s a dynamic exercise that is sure to strengthen those muscle groups that can help protect your knees and propel your forward with more power when you stride. For you women out there, lateral rotators are important to strengthen because women have a more severe Q-angle (the angle from your hips to your knees), which can lead to more ITB and meniscus issues as we become active and older. *sigh* Isn’t so much fun being a girl?

           

Stand with your feet together, lean forward and lunge to the side. Immediately push back to standing, maintaing parallel feet at all times. Do 15-20 reps each leg, 3 sets. Be sure of three things:

1. Lean forward with your chest, but back with your rear end

2. Keep your standing leg straight but bend no further than 90º on the moving leg.

3. Keep your knee from shooting out in front of your toes to keep your knee safe.

Standing Reverse Fly

By using a Thera-band (or the like) for this exercise, you are guaranteeing resistance in both directions of the exercise, which requires more control and is harder to do. Because it’s harder you don’t need lots of weight to make it difficult. If you’re still feeling like it’s a liiiiiittle too easy, you can lift one foot and add the challenge of balancing to the exercise. This will give you those sexy back muscles. It’s excellent for the rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, shoulders and core muscles.

           

Stand (on one foot or two) with your arms straight, holding either end of the band. Stretch your arms wide without bending them and squeeze your shoulder blades toward your spine. Slowly release your arms until they’re straight out in front of you again but do not let the band go slack. Maintain resistance at all times and keep your shoulders down away from your ears. You can do this with your arms bent but whichever way you do it, don’t bend your arms further as you reach back.

So there you go! An awesome leg sculptor and an upper body exercise that makes for seriously strong (and sculpted!) upper back and shoulder muscles. And you didn’t even have to go to the gym. Who knew?

Now go out and run!

The Hard Is What Makes It Great

One day you won’t be able to push as hard as you can today. One day your body might betray you and make it impossible for you to run again. One day you might look back on today and wish you would’ve gone out for a run, ran a little faster, worked a little harder, tried that new class, started doing yoga. I know, it’s hard. Testing your limits is scary. And absolutely necessary.

It’s hard to make time for yourself. It’s hard to say no to going out with friends. It’s hard to get up early. It’s hard to run up hills. It’s hard to complete a marathon. It’s hard to run. It’s hard to go one more mile. It’s hard to work out in the heat. It’s hard to go to the gym when it’s snowing outside. It’s hard to hold yoga poses. It’s hard to max out. It’s hard to do a pull-up.

The hard is what makes it great.

If it’s hard and scary and you think you’ll probably fail if you try, you should probably be doing it. More than once. Until it’s not so hard anymore or until you overcome the fear of trying it again. You can do this.

You only have today, no guarantees for tomorrow. What are you going to do to make today count? Go out and run, of course!

Making Every Run Count

You know those days when it’s all you can do to just make it out the door for a run? Yeah, everybody has days like those, even the best runners in the world have days like those. My gorgeous husband was just saying the other day that he didn’t want to go run but once he did, he knew he’d be fine. You know what? He was. And you will, too.

You see, even the I’m-barely-motivated-enough-to-get-myself-to-put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other runs have a purpose. And sometimes you might surprise yourself and end up having a super-speedy awesome run without planning on it. Every run counts in the grand scheme of things and the benefits are different for each of them.

Long Runs: Build endurance, log miles, catch up with a friend, clear your head.

Tempo Runs: Build speed, challenge your body, feel like you kicked your own butt.

Hill Repeats: Build strength, learn to appreciate the flat road, see how far you can go before you barf.

Easy Shake-Out Run: Promote muscular healing, enjoy your run, avoid prolonged soreness.

Five-Miler You Barely Made It Through AND Super-fast 20 Minute Treadmill Run: Ego boost, calorie burner, feel that sense of accomplishment.

You see? No matter how much time you have or how many miles you cover, each run can benefit you in the long run. So next time you’re thinking about throwing away a run because you only have half an hour, DON’T. Use every second of that half hour to put your heart into your workout. Remind yourself that, even though you think it’s pointless to go slog out a run, you can make every single run count, all you have to do is take the first step.

What are you waiting for? Go out and run!

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Summer Rain Showers

Hey there! It’s another edition of Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays where we share with each other why it’s so much better to be here rather than not. I know I keep commenting on the weather, but my GOD it is hot out there! Last week, I ran in 95° heat with 67% humidity at EIGHT O’CLOCK AT NIGHT. I was the opposite of happy about that, but there was nothing else to do because the heatwave was going nowhere all week long. It was a very long week for us runners. I’m sure you’ve been experiencing the same torture since, apparently, the entire country has been engulfed in molten lava.

(July 22, 2011) We're having a heat waaaave, a tropical heat waaaave. (Picture property of NOAA http://www.nnvl.noaa.gov)

On to the “better” part of this post. It rained yesterday afternoon. I knew it was supposed to sprinkle a bit and decided I would try to run anyway since it was my choice time to get my 6 miles in. It was glorious! Sure, it was raining. Sure, my shoes were small swimming pools by the end. Sure, I was soaking wet. But guess what? Every single runner I passed in Central Park SMILED AT ME AND SAID HELLO (I am a little like Kanye with the capital letters toay). For those of you who live in or have ever run in NYC, you know that this is a rare occurence. I have missed this part of suburb running. On the Highline Canal in Colorado, people say “good morning” to you so much it actually becomes kind of annoying after a while (there are a lot of runners there), but I have never experienced this in NYC. I LOVE that the weather brought out the smiles in all 10 people who braved the showers yesterday at 4pm. Thank you for your smiles, runners. It made my day. AND it cooled this very hot city off and brought our temperatures down to a manageable mid-80’s. Phew!

Holy pouring rain, Batman!

You see? Even when it’s raining and it could be miserable out there, someone runs by and smiles and it’s not so bad anymore. It’s reason enough for me to lace up my sneakers when I see the clouds forming on the West side on a summer day! And to think I might have missed such an uplifting run if I had gotten all down on the day because it was raining…tsk, tsk. Nope, I’m going to embrace the rain (within reason) and the heat (hot yoga actually prepares me well for hot running) and summer running because it’s way better than the alternative.

Now go out and run! (even if it’s raining) But first, tell me: what is it in your world that makes it Better Than the Alternative today?