Why the hour after your run is so important for your recovery – and exactly how to spend it - Women's Running

Why the hour after your run is so important for your recovery – and exactly how to spend it

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  May 10, 2022

Whether you run for fun or are training for a race, recovery is so important to reduce soreness and help you bounce back. We talk to recovery experts, Riixo, who tell us how we can recover quickly and efficiently

If you’re anything like us, you might think that recovering from a run involves a sofa, a shower and some chocolate. Of course, those things definitely have their place, but it turns out that what you do in the first hour after your run can make or break your recovery – and it has nothing to do with Netflix.

Riixo are experts in sports recovery, with their ice ball winning in our Product Awards this year. They told us exactly what we should be doing after our run to boost recovery, reduce soreness and help us get ready for our next workout.

During and after exercise, muscle damage occurs. Don’t worry, it’s not a bad thing – the muscle repairs itself and becomes stronger as it does. But what we want to do is take some proactive steps to reduce the burden of the damage, and help to speed up this repair process.

The steps you take in the 60-90 minutes immediately after an intense training session can significantly impact the speed of your recovery – we call this the Golden Hour.

We’ve thought about this, a lot. We know that runners are busy people, and can only fit so many steps into their lives. So, we’ve come up with a plan that we think most of us can do in that Golden Hour, which starts the moment our run is over:

1. Active recovery

Walk for 10-15 minutes immediately after exercise. The first 5 minutes might be faster than your typical walking pace.

Why? This prevents a sudden halt. You will gradually bring your heart rate down and allow a greater proportion of the metabolites and byproducts (which can cause muscle soreness) from the exercise to be flushed from your system.

The goal is a gradual cool down, so if it is an especially cold or wet day and you are outdoors, guard against getting too cold too quickly by adding a layer during this time.

Bonus recovery points: If you can keep active later in the day this will help too, whether it is walking the dog or popping to the shops these extra steps and movement will help.

2. Cold therapy

Don’t worry, you don’t need to own a cryotherapy chamber! Use ice on your muscles for 10-20 minutes after you finish exercising.

Why? It reduces inflammation and sharply cools the muscle temperature to reduce the energy demands during your recovery phase.

Our ice massage ball won in the Women’s Running Product Awards because it’s such an easy way to do cold therapy after a run. Combining the benefits of cryotherapy and traditional targeted massage, the ball has a liquid core which can be frozen and holds its chill for up to six hours. “I LOVE this ice ball,” said the tester. “The fact it stays cold for so long makes it the perfect kit to pack in your bag for use straight after competing. It’s been hugely beneficial to me with easing tight muscles and reducing the dreaded DOMS.” You can find out more about it here.

3. Heat therapy

This could be a warm bath or a hot shower. It might be applying a heat pack or using a hot water bottle.

Why? Heat encourages blood flow, helps to relax muscles and can help alleviate muscle soreness after exercise.

Bonus recovery points: If you are time-limited during the golden hour and can only manage a quick hot shower, consider having warm bath about 90-minutes before bed. It will help relax muscles further and help lower your core temperature which can be important in getting to sleep quickly and having a quality night’s rest.

4. Massage

Using a foam roller, a targeted massage roller, or massage gun have become common for recovery. Spending 10 minutes or so easing out any tightness in your legs or glutes can really help your tired muscles.

Why? Massage can help muscle flexibility by breaking down knots that limit range of motion and reduce DOMS by stimulating blood flow.

5. Compression wear

Pop on a pair of compression leggings or socks. Wear them for 60 mins to 4 hours after exercise – but never to bed.

Why? Compression is proven to have a significant impact on the recovery of muscle strength and muscle power. It is also proven to impact immediate soreness and DOMS. Do remember that not all compression garments are made the same – it’s important that the pressure level is correct and that the pressure is graduated to enjoy the benefits. You can read more about choosing your compression kit here.


7. Hydrate

The variation in hydration requirements between individuals is large. One way to work out how much water you need, is to weigh yourself before you start and again when you finish. Each 0.1Kg of weight lost corresponds to 125ml of water requirement post exercise, which will give you a good idea as to how much extra you need to drink after your run. Be sure not to force it all down in one go – little and often is the key.

Why? Hydration helps to regulate body temperature. It reduces muscle cramping. It improves your bodily functions as you recover. It also helps your cognitive functions, keeping you mindful and alert.

8. Refuel

Time for a snack before you crack on with the rest of your day.

Why? You need the right balance of protein and carbohydrates for the level of exertion undertaken. Carbs will help renew glycogen stores and protein to repair, renew and restore.

Here are some ideas:

  • Smoothie with Greek yoghurt, banana, and blueberries
  • Turkey sandwich, a banana, and a glass of an energy drink.
  • A small handful of almonds, pita bread with some hummus and an orange.
  • Protein shakes, but try blending in a banana, berries and/or fruit juice.
  • If you’re pushed, for time, it is very difficult to beat a pint of milk as a recovery drink.

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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