Long Distance Running Recovery Plan!
(Your actionable timeline)

long distance running recovery

I don't know about you but I love the feeling that comes after long distance running.

Peace, fulfillment, clarity, and yes, a little bit of soreness! 

Depending on how far you ran, you will want to jump start the recovery process as fast and as soon as possible.

Your long distance running recovery becomes all the more important especially when you are:

  • training for a time goal
  • want to reach a PR
  • are a first time marathoner and your body is trying to adjust to the longer distances 
  •  when you are doing a run over 16+ miles.



Your Long Distance Running Recovery Timeline of what you should be doing after your long runs:

0-5 minutes after your run: 

Rehydrate! You will want to drink about 8oz+ of water immediately after completing your run.

Also, have some more of your energy drink of choice. You need to restore those carbohydrate levels that you have depleted and want the electrolytes (sodium + potassium in particular) that should be found in your energy drink.

Another good option to include in your hydration plan following a long run is a beverage that contains glutamine that will help your body more rapidly rebuild it's depleted glycogen stores.


5-15 minutes after your long distance running:

Get a good 10 minute stretch in!

Lengthening your muscles, particularly the front and backs of your legs, hips, and calves, will help to loosen any acid build up and reduce the amount of soreness that you will feel throughout the rest of the day.

Try to really hold your stretches and go deep.

You just spent several hours contracting your muscles over and over again and now you want to counterbalance that action a bit.

Focus on the areas in your body that you know are weak or that you experience the most soreness after runs. This might be your hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, or calf muscle. 

Here are some great stretches for runners to do. 

One of my favorites after a long run is to simply put your legs up against a wall, scoot your bum as close as possible to the wall and take a 10 minute snooze. Rest + stretch at the same time = win!


15-30 minutes after a long run:  

Have a high carb + high protein snack.

You want to be sure to eat this within 30 minutes of finishing your run.

Your cellular receptors are highly prone within this time span to take in nutrients which will allow you to recover as fast as possible after a long run.

So plan ahead and have an energy snack within 0-30 minutes after finishing your run. This would be a great thing to plan ahead of time (remember, preparation is the biggest tip for running successful long runs!)

One idea of a quick, easy, ready-made protein + healthy complex carb snack idea would be these protein poppers!


30 minutes-1 hour after long distance running: 

Immerse yourself in water. 

Cold water or warm water though? 

Guess what? It's actually the water pressure and NOT the temperature that gives us the recovery benefits.

In this article on Runner's Connect they found that it was more the pressure of the water versus the temperature that provides benefits. 

Here's what they say:

"Cold temperatures seem to confer some benefit, but the bulk of the advantages of ice baths seem to come from the water pressure, not the temperature. It’s also worth noting that the hydrostatic pressure from standing in a pool, lake, or ocean will be much greater than the pressure from sitting in a fairly shallow tub. So to that end, hopping into a swimming pool or a lake will be almost as good for you as taking a true ice bath."

I know I definitely prefer a jump into a pool, lake or the ocean versus taking an ice bath! 

What about you?


After your water bath: 

Put on your compression socks!

These socks have been proven to offset delayed onset muscle soreness up to 24 hours after a race or long run. 

This seems to be a constant in the research that has been done on recovery while wearing the socks and has been proven from 10K racing up to the marathon.

So put them on and try to wear them as much as possible for 24 hours after your long run. 

Even consider sleeping in them when you go to sleep that night.

 Here's more information on compression socks + some suggestions!


1-2 hours after your run:
Time to focus on long distance running recovery foods!

It's time to talk about what long distance running recovery foods you should eat at this point!

Have a proper meal full of healthy complex carbohydrates, fats, and proteins + a splurge or two or three. :)

I don't know about you but food is a big motivator for me to finish a long run. So definitely plan to treat yourself 1 to 2 hours after your long run is complete.

At the same time don't just load up on junk and eat some of those healthier, whole foods to start give your body the right nutrients that it just burned off fueling your long run!

Some good options are:

Here's a complete list of some of the best foods you can eat after a long run.


Don't forget your vitamins at this point! 

You might want to consider taking some long distance running recovery supplements to help you recover even faster. Here are some good options:

  • Your immune system has also taken a hit after your long run and you are much more susceptible to catching colds and other bugs right after so take at least 500 mg of Vitamin C. I like to use this Vitamin C which is highly soluble and extremely effective! 
  • Including a B12 vitamin can help you to feel more energized!
  • Glutamine is also another great supplement to take after a long run as it enhances glycogen replacement in your muscles and liver.

2+ hours after long distance running: 

By this time if you haven't already crashed, it's time for a nap!

Even if you still need to head off to work for the day if you can get in a quick 20 minute nap that will super start your recovery.

Sleep really does wonders for your body. That's a whole post in itself.

But if you can shut your mind down and let your body just focus on repairing any damage that it has taken on during the long run it will make a big, big difference in how you feel and how quickly you will bounce back.

So try to get 20 minutes of sleep but the longer the better!

Keep those compression socks on too!


Before you go to bed for the night:

Try to get another round of stretching in.

Think about lengthening those muscles!

Not only will this again help to ward of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) but it will also help you sleep better and reduce the chances of you waking up with an awful leg or foot cramp (charlie horse)!


Schedule in at least 7-8 hours of sleep for the night! 

Again, the value of sleep!

A lot of us try to get by with the bare minimum or even less but after a long run is not the time to do that!

If you can, tack on 1 to 2 hours of extra sleep for the night all the better!


24 Hours + After Long Distance Running

Here are some guidelines for your long  distance running recovery the next day:

  • Do some light exercise + stretch again! Go on a walk, slow jog, slow bicycle ride, etc. This will help you loosen up and get your body ready to keep on keeping on with your training!
  • If you do decide to run the next day make it a "recovery run". The benefits and how to perform recovery runs are coming up next!
  • Don't schedule in any hard workouts such as hill repeats, sprints, intervals, etc. until at least 24 to preferably 36 hours after your long run.
  • Keep eating healthy complex carbs, proteins for muscle repair and healthy fats!
  • Get in another 7-8 hours of extra sleep! 



If you want a quick reference to remember all that you will want to do after a long run then I put together this quick checklist that can prompt you to focus on what you should be doing. Tape it to your fridge or store it in your running stockpile or running log for the next time you need it! 

Should you run the next day after a long run?

While you do not want to follow a long run with an intense or hard workout there are benefits to doing a "recovery run" the day after a long run.


What are recovery runs?

Recovery runs are runs that follow intense, long, or hard workouts.

They are performed within about 24-48 hours after a long run or even an intense quality run such as an interval or hill workout.


The benefits of running a "recovery run" are:

  • Running in a fatigued state (after your long run) will challenge your body and help it to go to the next level. It will also teach it that it can run in a state of fatigue (such as during the later stages of the marathon).
  • It will increase your running fitness level.
  • They help to build your mental endurance.
  • They effectively help your body make repairs and recover faster in order to allow you to run at the same level or higher the next time you go out for a long run.

What should your recovery running pace be? 

Your recovery running pace is very important as it should be done at a much slower pace than your normal running pace.


A good recovery running pace for you will be about 60-90 seconds slower than your normal running pace.

This might be difficult at times to run this slow but it really is important in order to help your body make repairs that are needed.


How long should your recovery run be?

Recovery runs are typically only 3-5 miles in length or about 25 to 40 minutes in duration. The shorter end of that spectrum is usually better especially for beginners.


In Conclusion

Remember, that the long run is the key to marathon success.

However, rest and proper recovery is essential to your success so take it seriously. If you need to take even two or 3 days off of running after a long run then do it! 

Here are some other important things you should consider:

  • Stretch for at least 10 minutes. If you can stagger your stretching sessions throughout that first day then that will yield even better results. 
  • Eat a meal rich in complex carbohydrates and lots of protein. Don't forget about your supplements.
  • Wear your compression socks. 
  • Immerse yourself in water whether it be a lake, swimming pool, or ocean. 
  • Get a good nights sleep for at least 7 hours.
  • Consider doing a recovery run the following day but definitely do not do any intense or hard workouts.

What are your favorite things long distance running recovery rituals?


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