You just completed a sweaty run, and are feeling pretty proud about it.
Then what’s next?
If you’re like most runners, you probably want nothing than jump into the shower and call it a day. After all, you deserve the rest, right?
Here’s the bad news. Neglecting your post-run (or rushing through it) is actually a big mistake. What you do following a workout is just as important as the training itself.
Make a mistake, and you’ll be undermining your training. Commit more than a few, and you’ll be heading in the wrong direction.
Without further ado, here are eight bad post-run habits that negatively impact your running performance as well as how to fix them for good.
Mistake # 1: Stopping on The Spot
Going from 30 to zero is a common mistake among runners. I get it. You just run your last mile and want nothing but collapse on the floor and enjoy the rush.
However, this actually can do you more harm than good.
During a run, everything forced to work at peak. By stopping abruptly, you cut your body’s need for increased circulation. This usually results in blood pooling in your extremities, which can cause fainting, dizziness, or nausea—tingling maybe one of the early warnings.
Skipping the cool down may also cause delayed onset muscle soreness as blood pools in exhausted muscles.
Cool down properly. Once you reach the end of your run, slow down your pace gradually until you’re jogging or walking at a relaxed pace. This helps lower heart rate, soothes muscle soreness, and stabilizes blood flow.
Once your breathing and heart rate are back to baseline, start hydrating and stretching. Avoid pouring water onto your body, just like in commercials. Let your body cool down a little bit before you rapidly change the temperature.
Mistake # 2: Skipping The Stretch
Whether stretching helps performance and prevents injury is somewhat controversial, but there’s no denying that the best time to stretch is just after a run—when the muscles are pliable and warm.
In fact, I consider stretching to be an integral part of any training program. Stretching your running muscles following a run breaks down lactic acid, improves flexibility, and speeds up your fitness gains.
Make it a rule to perform at least seven stretches following a run. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds per side—just keep it gentle, especially after a hard workout. Props are very welcome, so don’t shy away from using them to help your posture.
Here are three of my favorite runner’s friendly stretching routines:
Mistake # 3: Not Replacing Fluids
Proper hydration is key to overall health, but it’s even more important during your post-run window.
To function optimally, your body needs to refill its fluid stores, regardless of your running intensity, the weather, or any personal preferences.
Lack of fluid intake can cause sluggishness, mood swings, cramps, and other negative side effects that are the opposite of the runners high you should be experiencing.
Following a run, drink plenty of water, especially if you didn’t have any during your session.
Though the specific hydration needs vary from one runner to the next, as a rule of thumb, drink half of your body weight in ounces every day.
For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, shoot for at least 80 ounces. If you sweat a lot, get in an extra 500 to 600 ml for every hour of running, especially when exercising in hot weather.
Check your pee to make sure you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark, it most likely means you need more water. Water first, supplementary or energy drink later.
Mistake #4: Not Changing Out Of Your Running Clothes
Running gear might be comfortable, but keeping the sweaty items on is not only a smelly mistake but a dangerous one, too.
Sticky clothes hold on to moisture. Wearing them for too long following a run can cause rashes, body acne, and bacterial nightmares, including yeast and Staph infections. Yikes! You can’t stay awesome if you stink.
Whether you choose to shower right away or not, remember to change out of your running outfit. Have a clean change of clothing with you, including underwear, a T-shirt, socks, and (for the ladies) a bra.
I’d also recommend carrying wet papers or baby wipes in case you’re in a rush and need to do a quick wipe-down after a workout.
Mistake #5: Eating Junk
You may feel like you deserve a treat after a hard run but think again. The truth is, logging the miles isn’t a valid excuse to scarf down a burger and fries nor to drink a whole pack of beer.
Though running burns some serious calories, junk food isn’t what your body needs after a run. This is especially the case if you want to lose and/or maintain a healthy weight and speed up recovery.
In addition to eating healthy before your runs, you also have to properly refuel your body afterward.
Avoid the following items (I dare not call them food) post-run:
- Fast food
- Fruit juice
- Any empty calorie food
Too busy for a full meal? Try packing a healthy snack beforehand so you can refuel immediately, even if it means eating on the go. Something like protein brownie or soy bar.
The ideal post-run bite should help satisfy your cravings while replenishing carbohydrates and protein stores.
Good choices include any of the following:
- nuts with cottage cheese,
- low-fat chocolate milk, and
- turkey on whole-wheat bread.
Mistake # 6: Embracing The Couch After A Hard Run
Although you feel tempted to Netflix all day following a run, adding some movement to your day is a healthier approach.
Low impact, low-intensity, movements help improve blood circulation and aids in the removal of byproducts released during training.
On the other hand, extended inactivity can do you more harm than good. Prolonged sitting can be almost as bad to your health, according to research. Individuals who sit for more than six hours per day may face a 30 percent greater risk of dying from a major disease. Heard about sedentary? It’s not the best way to slay the day.
Instead of chilling, do some activity to keep your blood flowing and promote recovery. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes performing activities like light yoga, foam rolling, core work, or functional bodyweight training.
And it doesn’t have to be exercise. Here are more options:
- Trade your desk chair for an exercise ball
- Set a timer to go off every 45 minutes. This to remind you to stand up, leave your desk,
- Spend a lot of time on the phone? Try doing it while standing up, and if it’s possible, walk around. Connect your phone through Bluetooth headset, no more excuse!
- Get a standing desk (like this one), or stack a few hardcover books together, then put your laptop on top, and get to work.
Mistake # 7: Not Tracking What You’re Doing
You can’t improve on what cannot be measured. I’d go as far as to say that if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.
Monitoring your training plan helps measure your running progress (or lack thereof). It also works very well for improving motivation, for the short term, and the long.
That being said, not many runners are in the habit of keep track of their training. That’s a big mistake.
Whether you prefer using a classic running journal, a running app, or an excel sheet, start tracking your running numbers and see whether you’re getting closer to your goals or further away.
Inside of your diary, keep track of the following:
- Running mileage
- Running speed
- Calories burn
- Pre and post food
- Overall rating of training
You can also keep your track your body weight and stats:
- Stepping frequently on the scale and record your weight
- Taking before and after pictures
- Gauging body circumferences
- Gauging body fat percentages
Mistake # 8: Ignoring Sleep Needs
Proper sleep time is key to any healthy lifestyle. Not only does it improve recovery and performance, but it also helps regulate hunger hormones, which helps prevent overeating.
Your mouth tends to feel lonely at night, be careful if it makes you crave for anything from your fridge. Even worse, fidgeting through a delivery app. Scroll scroll, order…
That’s not the whole story. Runners who logged in more than nine hours of sleep a night improved their sprint times and performed better on reaction tests.
Sleep deprivation increases the risks of chronic fatigue, stress, mood swings, injury, and so many other health troubles.
Of course, sleep isn’t something you probably do just after a run, but it’s undoubtedly a part of the post-run routine that you should plan and follow.
Sleep needs vary from one runner to the next, but as a rough guideline rule, aim for seven to nine hours of shut-eye every night.
The more you run, the more sleep you’re going to need, according to a Stanford University research published in the journal Sleep.
I will never get tired of saying that planning is key. The best prevention you can get. Don’t be in a hurry (even if you actually are). Take time to cool down and stretch once you’re finished running, and always have a dry outfit to change into.
Do you have any personal running goofs you’d like to share with us?
I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.
In the meantime, thank you for stopping by.