After any exercise lasting more than 50 minutes, it is generally known that you need to re-fuel your muscles for a few good reasons:
1. Help your body repair the micro-stresses you have placed upon your muscles.
2. Replace lost nutrients that you have utilised in the training session.
A high-carb snack is an excellent source to restock glycogen stores, so things like fruit juice, a bagel with peanut butter, a baked potato with cheese or pancakes with yoghurt. Malto-dextrin or recovery powders work well. I find a particularly great brand is High 5, they do excellent shakes (which don’t taste like sickly-sweet death and if you’re lazy like me!). You can of course make up your own recovery powder. If so, recommended ratios are 4:1 carbs to protein. The protein will help your body absorb the carbs without playing too much havoc with your blood sugars. Generally 15g of protein for every 50lb you weigh is appropriate. You can always try to mimic this ratio with your post-workout snack, but it’s tricky, so a few good staples to stick to may be a great plan. The Go Faster food blog (now a book) suggests a rather scrumptious recovery shake you can whip up in next to no time at all! They also do some pretty great meal suggestions and recipes for different types of training if you have time to browse through their categories on the right-hand menu.
My grouch lies with the flurry of things you are expected to do post-run. There’s the ice bath, the recovery food (if you haven’t been prepared and left it to make when you finish your session :S), the recovery position/stretches, massage/foam rolling, and then struggling into any sort of compression kit you may possess to aid recovery afterwards. To me, it sounds like there’s a lot to accomplish in just 30 short minutes, and kind of leaves me feeling stressed out after the bliss of the actual run I’ve just completed. So, what order is supposedly best for us?
According to dieticians and coaches, replacing fluids first is number 1. If you’ve been exercising in hot weather for an hour plus, perhaps looking at replacing lost electrolytes is an idea too. I like to add High 5′s electrolyte replacement tablets (apparently zero carbs and in 3 lovely flavours- I’m currently on lime) into my bottle of water to cover that area.
The second thing, is to get that post-exercise meal down you to aid recovery on the inside, and to reduce any fatigue you may feel before having to go out and do your next session.
Thirdly, get your stretching in whilst your muscles are still relaxed and can take you getting into deep stretches for your tight areas (a common one is the ole hip flexors) before moving on to foam rolling/massage to flush out any toxins and improve circulation.
The ice bath option is to come last. My training buddy SuperSarah swears by these for getting her through our training for London (she was on a suspected stress fracture at the time). Ice baths work on the theory that repeatedly constricting and dilating the blood vessels help to flush out waste products in the tissues, and prevent severe DOMS from setting in. Roughly ten minutes should do it, and you can just hop in wearing your tights and a towel/t-shirt around our upper body. It is also recommended to take something to do with you for distraction purposes, read a magazine, sip hot tea/chocolate. Dump in a few ice trays (roughly 1kg worth) into a shallow bath of cold water. If you can tolerate that, stick in a few more trays (and well done to you!). If you start to go numb, get out sooner than the 10mins.
Lastly, and a bit of a no-brainer: get adequate sleep. It’s rubbish to try perform when you are feeling knackered, not to mention de-motivating. Try not to do it to yourself!