How to Speed Up Recovery After a Run

August 14, 2019 8 min read

Zensah athlete wearing compression leg sleeves and stretching

How many times have you gone out for a run to realize your quads all of a sudden transformed into two blocks of bricks? This has to be one of the worst feelings; you’re all laced up and ready to start logging in miles to then realize your nice jog actually just turned into a sandbag drag for a couple miles. This didn’t happen because you did something wrong. On the contrary, this is a clear sign of what you didn’t let your body do, recover. This step in training gets overlooked so easily, yet it’skey to your performance! The time you give your body to recover from strenuous activity is almost as important as your longest run during marathon training. Hard to believe, I know.


Man running in Zensah Featherweight Compression Leg Sleeves

When your body is placed under high levels of stress, workout or run, your muscles create micro-tears in the tissue to suffice with the level of intensity it’s being put under. The muscles of your legs, along with your cardiovascular system, need a break to reconfigure itself back to normal metabolic state. Once your system is back in harmony, you will be able to have a nice and enjoyable run again. The secret trick to recovery days is their ability to allow you to come back stronger so you can push yourself a bit further each time. The recovery process is the main stage where your muscles strengthen because it’s where the body has the time and resources to rebuild itself.


So what exactly do you need to do for recovery purposes? Although sitting on the couch and having a Netflix binge does sound like the ideal resting plan, vegetating does not grant a proper recovery. An integral element of recovery days allowing your body to replenish and refuel to be able to endure continuous strenuous activities. After runs or intense workouts there is skeletal muscle damage, decreased substrates, and accumulation of metabolic by-products such as lactic acid.An ideal recovery requires an increase in circulation, rebuilding of the muscle fibers, and protein synthesis. The recovery process should be optimized for you to be able to return as soon as possible. In order to do so, focus on working on these four tips to expedite your progress:


ACTIVE RECOVERY

Sounds a bit counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Recovery is almost always associated with rest, meaning not doing any form of workouts or exercise. But, not in this case. Research has shown, over and over, that incorporating active recovery sessions in your fitness routine will most likely produce an increase in performance. These claims come from extensive focus on the physiological effects low intensity muscle contractions have on your heart, muscle fibers, blood concentration levels, and hormone regulations.That’s the science behind these beliefs, but similar testing has been done solely focused on athletes’ performance when they engaged in active recovery versus passive recovery. Indications proved that active recovery, in fact, allowed the athletes to perform with more power than if rested otherwise. 


Now that we know it works, let’s break down exactly what we are dealing with. An active recovery routine will mimic the usual exercises you do on a regular basis but at a level with less intensity, less volume, and less resistance. A marathon runner, for example, can include a day of active recovery into their training; alternating between a slow, low intensity jog for a few miles or a walk can also suffice. It’s important to listen to what your body needs on these active recovery days. These active sessions will help increase your stamina and grant the highest quality of recovery possible.


It’s very important to make sure your intensity is low low low! The purpose of active recovery sessions is to allow your body to rest while your muscles produce light contractions. You do not want to have a recovery day where you actually make those muscles pump. Small, weak contractions in the muscles will promote what exercise physiologists like to call a “metabolic washout.” In short, it helps dilate blood vessels, arteries, and veins which help flush metabolic by-products to and from the overworked muscles. Blood lactate levels, hormone regulation, and immune system suppression are all common benefits of this form of recovery. 

REPLACE FLUIDS + FUEL / WHAT TO EAT & DRINK AFTER RUNNING 

To prevent further imbalances in your system after a long workout, proper nutrition can help shorten the time it takes your body to fully recover. The goal is to replenish your muscles with lost fluids, carbohydrates, and protein to help your body recover quicker for your next training. 


Athlete wearing Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves in BlackYour first priority is fluids. Hydration does not start during the run. It’s important that you begin hydrating for long runs days before. Anywhere between 60 and 80 ounces of water a day will be enough to get you ready for the run. Be sure to have an additional 6 to 8 ounces right before you start. Depending on the length of your long run, you may need to hydrate during the run. Coaches advise small sips frequently (every 15 to 20 minutes) to help your body absorb better without having that heavy, sloshing water bouncing in your stomach. Post-run hydration is key for your recovery time! After your run, it’s important to replenish the electrolytes you flushed out in your sweat. To achieve optimal rehydration, you should interchange between a sports-drink and water. You should consume about 20 to 24 ounces of this mix for every pound lost. It is really important to replenish with electrolytes and not just water. Too much water and low levels of sodium can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. This causes your body to hold onto too much water which can cause nausea, headache, confusion, and imagine, more fatigue! 


After you’ve rehydrated, fueling up with super foods is the next step. First off, I want to start by saying that a long run is not a free pass to eating your own box of pizza. I’m sure you feel you deserve it, but the content of all our favorite comfort foods can actually slow down the recovery process even more! Proper nutrition can help the body by providing carbohydrates and protein it no longer has in storage. The goal is to replace what was lost to minimize metabolic fatigue, muscle damage, and inflammation. Consuming a carb-filled snack with some protein within 30 to 45 minutes of running help muscles absorb needed nutrients and prevent the post-run starvation later. Foods like bananas, chocolate milk, protein shake, and greek yogurt are all recommended by sports nutritionists to eat right after. Try to have a proper meal with a ratio of 3 to 1, carbs to protein, within four hours of run to help restore the body’s glycogen storage. A combination of lean protein (salmon, lean beef, eggs) and complex carbohydrates (sweet potato, whole wheat pasta, quinoa) will be most beneficial. 


COMPRESSION GEAR

I’m sure you’ve seen those high-knee leg sleeves runners wear at either races or Saturday morning long runs; they’re pretty much everywhere. Trial after trial, they have been shown to enhance performance by allowing your muscles to push harder and recover faster. To understand how this could remotely occur by just wearing something, let’s trace this back with some science.


Athlete balancing on a foam roller with Zensah Compression Socks in Neon Green

The purpose of compression is to amplify the amount of oxygen-rich blood being delivered to the area being compressed. The contracting muscles used during runs consume large amounts of oxygen in order to replenish the ATP (energy) being used up. The heart begins to pump harder allowing for a rush of oxygenated blood to muscles. This cycle continues in order to keep up with the miles being logged in. The more availability of oxygen, the harder the muscles will be allowed to work. When the circulatory system cannot keep up to speed with the high demand, lactic acid is produced instead. This indicates your muscles are in an oxygen-deficient state. Here, we feel the burn and mere fatigue when we cannot seem to find the strength to push harder. To prevent this agonizing state, lactic acid build up must be either halted or at least decreased. That is where compression garments come to rescue us! The microfibers of compression sleeves hug the muscle tightly allowing for the velocity of blood flow to increase. By allowing a flow of more oxygenated blood to the area, the muscle takes it in and is able to work harder.


Lucky for you, Zensah specializes in advanced compression garments for runners. The best selling products for runners are:

FEATHERWEIGHT COMPRESSION SOCKS

These socks feature an innovative design that provides an ultra-lightweight fit for superior performance. Engineered for high-level performance and warm climates. Packed with mesh calf area, moisture-wicking fabric, and chevron support.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Absolutely great, comfortable, fit is excellent, colors are the best, prevents calf cramps that I have a tendency to get, offers good recovery after long runs, overall would definitely recommend.” - Joseph 

RECOVERY TIGHTS

Offers ankle to hip graduated compression to maximize circulation recovery. Provides superior muscle stabilization, moisture-wicking, and anti-odor fabric. Seamless construction and 3D ribbing supports key areas in the knee & thigh. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Really feels the compression that these tights do along all legs, highly recommended especially for recovery, it is very worthwhile for those who do enough exercise.” - Jose

COMPRESSION LEG SLEEVES

The leg sleeves were originally designed to help mimic taping methods used by athletic trainers to alleviate shin splints. They now provide athletes with calf support and decreased leg fatigue besides the original shin splint alleviator. The benefits of using compression range from: enhanced blood circulation, quicker recovery time, & reduce muscle fatigue among the many other benefits. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐  “Absolutely love the Zensah Compression Sleeves.... I wear them to run, as well as cycle. Great fit, my performance both running and cycling has improved, and I feel the sleeves have enhanced my recovery time. Plus, the great variety of patterns and colors are really fun!” - Amy

GRIT RUNNING SOCKS

These socks feature a fine Merino Wool & Polypropylene blend to provide superior wicking properties. There is extra padding added to the ball and heel of foot to reduce impact. Compression is provided at the arch and plantar fascia. Merino Wool is used for temperature regulation.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Very impressed with the socks. They were comfortable and are holding up nicely. They didn't slip at all in the shoe.” - Patrick


SLEEP

Sleep in more for a better race time? Sounds like a win-win if you ask me. This aspect of training gets overlooked and pushed-off so easily. The average person needs around 8 hours of sleep each night to function properly. Depending on your age, physical activity levels, and overall health the exact hours of sleep vary. Failure to catch all your Zzz’s can put you at risk for many sleep deprived diseases such as: obesity & heart disease, diabetes, poor bone & muscle growth, depression, just to name a few. So if sleep affects your health this much, imagine what a lack of sleep does to your performance! 


One study done by the US Army Research and Development Center stated that “sleep loss can depress the body’s thermoregulatory system by reducing our ability to sweat during exercise,” meaning that the heat feels hotter and the cold seems colder! Another study conducted by Stanford on NCAA Men’s Basketball players demonstrated improvements in timed sprint, shooting accuracy, reaction time, and mood when placed on a 10-hour daily sleep schedule. Therefore, sleep not only helps combat some health issues, but can also shave seconds off that PR of yours! These studies are just two examples of the countless amount of research backing up this claim. 


Missing some sleep won’t cause any major physiological harm, but falling into sleep debt can affect you way more than you think. Just be sure to catch a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night; if you weren’t able to sleep that long during the night take naps to help catch up. Here's a link that helps explain all about sleeping pills, napping, health risks of sleep deprivation, and much more. Check it out it can change your race!

How to speed up recovery after a run


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