What you do before, during and after a long run determines how well you recover. Without proper recovery, the next few runs can be adversely affected and/or there is an increased risk of injury.
Although what works for me may not work for you, the best way to determine your own strategy is through research, talking to other runners or athletes, and lots of experiments (before race day).
For me the long run begins at breakfast. I’ve tried consuming more calories in hopes of a stronger run but it just made for an uncomfortable run instead. An alternative is to supplement breakfast with pre-game powders, proteins or liquid.
I prefer something I can add to juice or water rather than consuming additional liquids, which may call for an additional bathroom break early in the run. Whichever concoction you choose, the added carbs and/or proteins will improve your energy level throughout the run.
Everything running stays in a drawer in our pantry. It includes my calendar, the little bag that holds my watch, iPod and earphones (an easy bag to grab and go when I travel), vitamins, supplements and herbs (enough subject for a post all of its own), K-tape (duct tape for runners I say), and L-Glutamine powder.
After breakfast the vitamins, herbs and supplements go down with juice that’s spiced up with the pre-game concoction and a heaping teaspoon of L-Glutamine powder, which works to prevent muscle soreness.
As I left the house Sunday morning, I held a bottle of Gatorade, a water bottle with another teaspoon of the L-Glutamine, half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an extra pair of shoes in case I wasn’t happy with the newer ones on my feet, two energizing jelly beans in my pocket, and a small water bottle to carry during the run. My husband said it looked like I was going out for a picnic. Indeed I was not.
When I reached the parking spot, it was 62 degrees and raining hard. I called back home to my husband and said, “This is ridiculous! I don’t want to run in this rain!”
We talked about it, he checked the radar and told me it will be 2 hours before the nasty rain arrives. Good Lord. This is nasty rain.
Your body is all juiced up, so-to-speak, and the worst thing in the world is to delay the long run. So, I finally quit whining and just started running.
Around mile 10, I worked my way back by the Jeep, ate the sandwich, drank some water and Gatorade, and changed my shoes. After the run, I finished off the Gatorade and the thermos of water on the way to the restaurant where I ordered a cheeseburger and steamed veggies, no butter.
The sooner you drink/eat/refuel the better. This is my most critical time of recovery.
Fortunately, my husband had brought along a completely dry change of clothes – from my hat all the way down to dry socks. You don’t realize how soaked you are until you’ve cooled down so getting into dry clothes by that point is important.
It’s better to walk for a bit rather than heading directly to the couch so I try to take my time getting there. By the time we have breakfast/lunch and get back home though, I’m ready for a warm shower and a nap. (Remember: a hot shower too soon and you’ll increase swelling.)
It’s not uncommon to find sleep does not come easy after a long run – your muscles seem not to want to settle down. This happens more often for me after a race rather than long runs so with golf playing on the TV as background noise, I easily drift off into blissssful rest.