Whether you just finished a race, tough speed workout, a really long run, you need to take care of yourself and make sure you're recovering properly. Here are some tips for recovering from races and long or hard runs.
Stick to a balanced diet with plenty of good carbohydrates and protein to help repair and rebuild those damaged muscles. And don't wait too long to eat something -- studies have shown that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (stored glucose) stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. Eating some carbs and protein (aim for a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein) soon after you run can help minimize muscle stiffness and soreness.
Post-run is the best time to stretch because your muscles are warm and flexible. But make sure you don't overdo it after a hard run or race. Gently work through each of these runners' stretches for 30 seconds on each side.
More: Tips for Stretching
Taking an ice bath is an efficient way to reduce inflammation and soreness in your entire body. If you just can't tolerate an ice bath, use ice packs on especially sore spots, such as your quads and knees.
If you're feeling sore or fatigued, take a day or two off from running. That doesn’t mean you need to stop all activity. You can do low-impact cross training such as walking, biking, swimming, or the elliptical trainer to give your running muscles and joints a break while still maintaining your fitness.
Go for a massage or do some self-massage.
Massage is a great relief for muscle pain and stiffness -- just make sure the massage therapist keeps it gentle if you're really sore. You can also use a foam roller or other massage tool to massage tight spots.