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You buy the right shoes and create a killer training plan with plenty of built-in “days off.” But, if that’s the only way you plan to recover from your runs, that’s your first recovery mistake.

While rest is important, there are many other things you need to do to perform at your best, from self-massage to drinking enough water. To keep yourself injury- and burnout-free, while making sure your body is happy and healthy, double check that you’re not making these running recovery mistakes.

1. Not Cooling Down

The process of recovery starts before you end your run. When you hit your stopping point, the first instinct is to come to a halt and catch your breath. However, it’s important that you don’t stop immediately, and rather slow to a jog and then a fast walk before stopping completely.

After a run, you need to let your heart rate return to its pre-run state, according to experts at Orthopaedic Associates. Not only is your heart rate high, but your blood vessels are also constricted, so stopping in your tracks could cause you to pass out or get sick. Instead, slow to a jog for the last five to 10 minutes to give your body the recovery time it needs before unlacing your shoes and hitting the couch.

2. Not Rehydrating

When you finish a long run, what do you want? You want sustenance to feed your hungry body. In your rush to the kitchen for a snack, it’s easy to forget that your body needs to replenish something else as well: water.

Our bodies consist of 75 percent water, and the amount we need post-exercise depends on a variety of factors including gender, age, height and intensity and length of your run. Drinking anywhere from 10 to 50 ounces may be necessary.

One quick way to determine your water needs is to use this hydration calculator, which gives you the exact amount of ounces to drink. The calculator asks questions about duration and intensity of exercise and your weight, height and gender to give you an accurate number.

There are three self-tests you can do as well:

  • Skin snap: If you pinch a small piece of skin on the top of your hand and it snaps right back, you’re hydrated. If it returns to normal slowly, you need water.
  • Urine color: It should be a light yellow to clear color.
  • The scale: Step on the scale before your run and after. The difference in weight is the amount of ounces you need to drink to replenish what you lost.

3. Not Making Time for Tissue Care

While some people forget to stretch after a run, even more don’t realize the importance of myofascial care using foam rollers or therapy balls. These methods of recovery are focused on self-myofascial release, which is a way of hydrating tissues, releasing muscle tightness and trigger points (knots), to increase mobility and flexibility and do so much more for the body. Check out the fundamentals of foam rolling or get on the ball for a better run to get started, if you’ve never rolled before.

You can target your muscles using a foam roller or tennis ball and should focus on a few main areas:

  • Hip flexors
  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves

Focus on rolling along the entire length of the muscle, so for your calf, you’d roll from the top of your Achilles to you’re the back of your knee. Roll the entire muscle for one to 10 minutes and stop in places that feel tender, focusing just on that area for 30 seconds.

Practice foam rolling or self-care on a therapy ball after longer or higher intensity runs, (or before a run), or really, whenever you feel your body needs it, i.e. you’re tight or extra sore.

4. Not Changing Intensity and Distance

You may be surprised to know that professional runners rarely run at their competition pace or hit their competition distance when training. That’s because it’s too much for the body to run far and long for every run—it needs time to recover.

If you’ve been bitten with the running bug, it may be difficult to convince yourself to take it easy on your next run after a long or intense running session, pulling back for a recovery run. However, this is a critical element of recovery.

Why? Higher intensity runs, especially when using a HIIT-interval format, utilize your anaerobic energy system, meaning you use in less oxygen and you’re out of breath faster. Long and slow runs, also called “steady state cardio,” utilize your aerobic energy system, which requires you to take in more oxygen so you can maintain your pace for much longer. As a runner, you want to train both systems because you use your aerobic system to recover between high-intensity, anaerobic, runs and sprints.

With that in mind, a good rule of thumb is to go on at least one to two shorter “recovery day” runs for every long, high-intensity run.

5. Not Running By Feel

If you’re training for a race, you may have a goal pace in mind. However, it’s important to focus on the pace that feels “right” during your training runs. There are a variety of factors that affect how fast you can run, including weather (heat and cold), what you ate that day, how well rested you are, among other things. Focusing solely on pace for every run will lead to burnout and potentially injuries as you push yourself to maintain a pace that your body isn’t comfortable with.

If you have a hard time adjusting your pace strategy, slowly decrease the amount of times you use this as a marker for training success; preferably just one to two runs a week.

Recovery involves more than taking days off—you need to foam roll your muscles, get enough water, and much more. Focus on the recovery your body needs to avoid burnout and injuries, and you’ll start to become the best runner you can be.

  • Norma Luffy

    Before every run I stretch legs, back & arms, first in a lunge w/right ft forward & left heel flat on the ground, then change legs; next is a stretch w/both legs stretched back & heels flat on the ground while bracing w/arms outstretched forward, 10-12 push-ups in that position, keeping the heels flat on,the floor & breathing in thru the nostrils & out thru the mouth. On the treadmill, the cold bottle of ice water is right there when the mouth feels dry. Also good is the heart rate meter to check at intervals & changes is uphill or downhill segments.

    • Hi Norma! Thanks for reading 24Life. Stretching and water are integral parts of a workout. Happy running to you!

      • Norma Luffy

        TY! Did a Chi walk w/run for the last 10 minutes on an incline at the treadmill for 1/2 hr. & for recovery did 1/2 hr. On the low Exercycle w/1 lb. weight alternating arms for 5’reps of 12 of Alex Carneiro’s upper body moves. Tomorrow we increase the weight to 2 lbs.

        In the Sauna before & after, Eucalyptus oil on a paper towel enhances the atmosphere.
        Also the Dr. Scholls active wear insoles are very good.

        • Norma Luffy

          Day 3, cooling down on the Exercycle w/2 lb. hand weight, today did 3 reps of 10 – for 5 of Alex Carniero’s upper body moves. Heart rate went to 102, usually 82.

          • Norma Luffy

            Today my recovery time turned into crisis time. Short Chi walk on steepest incline & 10 minute run. Recovery on low bike w/2 lb. weight for Carniero’s upper body moves; but the obese invalid in the wheelchair prevented use of the Jacuzzi, resulting in trying to relax in the Sauna w/a book, to no avail! A Muslim looking member, who I have never seen before entered the Sauna behind me complaining about his bad back & his younger brother in worse condition, in India, who could not get a student Visa to enter the country to get his MBA!
            I tested him, telling him a knew a Catholic priest in Cleveland, about 40 years ago who was from Ceylon, now called something else, which he did not know (new name is Sri Lanka). He said he was not Hindu, so he has to be Muslim. Told him his brother must have been profiled. I had to leave the Sauna to avoid further political pressure from this possible Jihadist.
            Never expected Muslim confrontation at 24 hour “fitness”.

          • Norma Luffy

            I just realized that the buff & unbuff males in the machine & water area are actually male hustlers, who get very noisy, boisterous & rude when they are not patronized. It is shocking & very surprising that they are not arrested for soliciting!!!!!! Male prostitutes are the last thing one would expect in a fitness gym!!!!

  • doug talkington

    I’m confused about why I should not run at my max pace or distance? “Higher intensity runs, especially when using a HIIT-interval format, utilize your anaerobic energy system, …………..” can you please explain why it’s bad to do this?

    • Hi Doug,

      We’re not saying it’s bad to run at high intensity, we’re saying you don’t want to do that every single time you run. Point #4 above suggests that you also have days of lighter runs, at a moderate intensity to give variety to your training routine. Good luck out there!

      • doug talkington

        Ok thanks!