7 ways to avoid post-run aches!
This is a question I’ve recently been asked over on my Facebook page, Tim’s Running World. Whilst the question was asked by someone new to running (I don’t like the term ‘beginner’), it struck me that if everyone shared a bit about their own cool down routine (if it works that is!), then we’d all be in a better position. So, I’m going to try and focus in this blog post on 7 key things I tend to do following a run to prevent or lessen the aches I might otherwise suffer from.
- Spend a bit of time running slower than the ‘main’ run. Yes, once I finish my run, I run a bit further. Sounds a bit mad, right? Well, at the end of my main run I’m usually breathing pretty hard and am on the verge of wanting to lie down for the rest of the day. Sound familiar?! I like to jog for about 1 kilometre to help me regain my breath and help my heart gradually reduce the effort it is under. During this time, I also change up my strides. By the end of my main run, in which I’ve pretty much been running at a steady speed, pace and stride length, my legs are so used to the repetitive motion that they ache a bit. Doing some heel kicks to the bum, some high knees up to my chest, some skipping or some conga-like movements with my legs really seems to alleviate these aches and I think, move around some of the build-up of ‘bad stuff’ in my muscles. (I don’t know enough about lactic acid and physiology to talk correct terms and I don’t want to be incorrect!).
2. After this kilometre cool down, my body is still warm and my legs feel looser. Now is the time to do some static stretching. Static stretching is where your body stays in one place and you focus on one specific stretch at a time. As a comparison, dynamic stretching is good to do in a warm up prior to a run where you’re moving your body, such as jumping and skipping, jogging, strides (where you gradually increase your running tempo over the course of 50 metres or so and then gradually slow down over the same distance). Static stretches should be held for about 15 seconds each and I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to perform these with good technique. There are some great examples of poor and excellent stretching technique online, so do your homework about these. I will be posting a video about my own stretching routine in the near future on my YouTube channel. The key areas you’re going to need to focus on (in my own experience) are:
- Calves (Gastrocnemius – love this word!)
- Hip flexors
- IT band (iliotibial band)Don’t skip this part of your routine, or tomorrow (and even the following day) you’ll be aching so much you won’t want to run again for a week!
If you type these with the word ‘stretches’ after them you’ll find plenty of advice and images on these stretches. Of course, you are going to want to focus on your legs, but don’t ignore any tight areas you might have in your upper body. Sometimes I really need to loosen my shoulders and neck, or give my lats (side of your upper torso) or my back a really good stretch out.
3. Get a good amount of water (only water) down you! Drink it while you’re sorting your clothing choices out following your shower. Even if you just had a short or relaxed run, you are still going to be dehydrated and you need to be kind to your body. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?
4. Enjoy a delicious protein shake! This is definitely something I look forward to when I’m on my run and finding it tough, and something I look forward to when I get back home. When I first started running, it became clear that I was losing weight and I started to look quite gaunt and not healthy. I am on the lean side anyway, so I don’t have a lot of weight to play with in the first place. On speaking with a doctor who was also really into his sport, he explained that not only was I losing weight, but I was delaying my recovery by not getting good stuff back into my body (apart from water for hydration). For me, adding a protein shake to my post-run routine has helped in many ways.
- It motivates me. I like the chocolate milkshake taste – what a great reward for going for a run!
- It tastes good. They come in plenty of flavours, but chocolate is great for me!
- It prevents me from getting too skinny. It is hard to get enough calories in when you’re burning so many in training (particularly when training for a half or full marathon) and a post-run shake helps with this.
- It helps to speed my recovery. As the milkshake I have chosen is specially formulated for athletes, it includes a decent amount of protein and so helps to speed up the process of repair and recovery for my muscles. This therefore lessens the impact of Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) meaning that I’m good to go for a run the next day, or day after that depending on my training schedule, work and family commitments and how my body is feeling.
If you’re interested, I use a brand called Matrix. Here’s a link to the product I use.
5. Before you get too cold, take a shower!! If you stay sweaty too long it really isn’t good for you to cool down like that, you’ll get too cold and your muscles won’t have time to adjust. All that sweat isn’t hygienic either, so get rid of it!
6. OK, this one ISN’T a way to avoid post-run aches, but it is part of my post-run routine, so it’s here! Upload (and then analyse!) your run to your favourite physical activity-based app! It’s great to have a network of mates who you can feel positively accountable to regarding your efforts. I like to add some notes here as to anything specific I felt during the run, or points of interest I might want to look back on later. It isn’t an essay though! I choose to use Strava because a lot of my friends use it and I really like the community. They are always developing new functionality too. I previously wrote an article that compared Strava with one of its main competitors at the time, Endomondo, which you can read here. Other popular apps include MapMyRun, Nike+, RunKeeper, Runtastic, GoogleFit and Garmin Connect. I don’t have much experience of any of these and there are others on the market too. I can often be seen going straight to point 6 after point 2, multitasking it with points 3 and 4 before getting on with point 5. There, I said it. I don’t always follow my own advice to the letter.
7. Work out when you’re going to do your next exercise session and what you’re going to do. Is it going to be a swim, a gym strength session, a run (if so, for how long, why, where to, who with and with what purpose?), a bike ride, a HIIT session or something else? When can you realistically do it so as not to put too much pressure on your life away from looking after your health? I’m a big believer in quality over quantity. I rarely run more than 3 times a week, even when marathon training. Having a realistic and balanced training regime will definitely ensure you avoid aching too much. However, mild aches are good because they give you a sign that you’re working hard enough to improve your muscle strength, stamina or efficiency!
So, that’s it. That’s my post-run cool down strategy! If you have something else, or do something different, I’d love to hear from you! Please respond in the comments box, or reply to me on Twitter, Instagram or via my Tim’s Running World facebook page!
…I have a little favour to ask and you need to hurry! My blog has been nominated in The Running Awards in the Blog category. I would love it if you could find two minutes to vote for my blog before 29th November! You can vote here and find the Blog category by going to Vote > Publications & Online > Blog > Tim’s Running World. If you do vote for me, thank you so much!!