If you’re training for a fall marathon or half-marathon, you're probably putting in many miles during the next few months. Doing long runs is key to being well-trained and prepared on race day, but you also want to recover as quickly as possible.
A quick recovery means more energy, reduced muscle fatigue, and the ability to train more efficiently. If your long run is wiping you out or you feel totally zapped of energy most of the time, it’s time to make some changes.
Try these three tips to rebound quickly after your long run so you can train harder and have energy for the rest of your life.
1. Eat anti-inflammatory foods
Inflammation is a normal process in your body. It’s the signal that your immune system is going to work to heal a cut or mend a broken bone but many people have systemic inflammation that is making them sick or exhausted.
As an athlete, you need to be extra vigilant about managing inflammation because you put your body through much more stress than the average person. If your muscles are always sore, you have nagging injuries, or you need pain medicine to get through your day, inflammation is likely the culprit.
Try adding in more foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids which are naturally anti-inflammatory. Ground flax seeds and chia seeds are both high in omega-3s. Add a tablespoon of one or both to your smoothies or morning oatmeal. Other great sources include walnuts, wild-caught salmon, and sardines.
2. Eat the rainbow.
I’m sure you know you should eat your vegetables, but here’s why it matters to you as an athlete. (Hopefully knowing the "why" will make it easier to choose carrots over cupcakes!)
Vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which your body needs to deal with the free radicals that are constantly being created. Free radicals are molecules with an odd number of electrons. If left uncontrolled, they can damage healthy cells and that can lead to fatigue and disease.
This process of free radical creation is normal, but the second very important piece of the equation is that you need the antioxidants to “mop up” the free radicals. Getting antioxidants is as simple as eating a variety of vegetables and fruits. The more color the better, so make it your goal to eat the rainbow.
This is especially important for athletes because exercise, especially when you train hard or long, produces more free radicals. Athletes need to add in more antioxidants than the average person to recover faster, stay energized, and be disease-free.
If you need more food inspiration, check out these five foods that every athlete should be eating.
3. Do gentle yoga.
Yoga is ideal for loosening tight muscles and helping you stay focused on race day but stick with gentle yoga when you are at the peak of your training. Your hard workouts should be focused on running, not a power yoga class that leaves you more exhausted.
If you go to a group yoga class, be ready to stay in child’s pose or take breaks if you need it. Yoga is not the place to be competitive so do your best to check your ego at the door and listen to your body.
If you want to practice on your own, try staying in Legs Up the Wall Pose for at least five minutes. Close or cover your eyes, breathe deeply and allow your body to fully relax. This pose is perfect for refreshing tired legs and calming your mind.