The difference in all sports and exercise types tends to be more about the intensity and duration, in other words do you casually dabble as a hobby (at one end) or are a professional athlete at the top end.
But nevertheless runners need advice too, and while it’s not my favourite exercise it might be your’s, so here’s what I advise…..
There’s sayings that go round the fitness world such as gains happen on rest days, and this is absolutely true. It’s when you’re resting, recovering and recuperating that your body adapts to the demands you’ve imposed on it during a run or workout, by becoming stronger, fitter, and better at your chosen exercise. Without sufficient recovery improvements won’t happen, and the build up of exercise induced stress may even hinder or reverse progress.
Parents know only too well how busy life is already, with jobs, kids and household responsibilities eating into our leisure and sleep time. But the fact is that most people have more autonomy than they realise over their recovery. The house doesn’t have to be tidy all the time, box sets can wait until the weekend so you can get an early night, and as much as alcohol makes you relax in the moment, abstaining or cutting down really will make you recover faster, sleep better, and feel healthier.
Runners need to focus on three things after a run – hydration, muscle glycogen replenishment, and muscle repair.
Depending on the length of the run they may have included some fuel during the run itself. It’s good to have a water bottle on hand but in heat or when sweating, electrolytes are lost, so a sports drink will help hydrate than water alone. And muscle glycogen (sugar) stores are gone after about 90 minutes, so sugar gels or energy bars are popular with endurance runners.
After a run hydration is the most important factor, as while our bodies can last a while without food, dehydration can be very serious. Water may be sufficient for a shorter run, but in warm weather or if you sweat a lot, definitely add some electrolytes. These can come in powder or dissolvable tablet form, or there are ready made drinks, including sugar free ones.
Food plays a key role in recovery but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Protein needs are higher in people who exercise and runners are often guilty of not consuming enough calories to match what they burn. Simple meals like omelettes, baked fish, jacket potatoes and beans on toast are really quick to make but are all really nutritious and will help muscles repair and refuel so you’re ready for the next run!
The run will have depleted muscle glycogen (stored sugar) which has to be replenished, or you may find yourself feeling light headed and sluggish all day. Some carbohydrates that are easy to digest are ideal, such as a banana, some milk, or a mixed meal containing rice or potatoes. Hard to digest high fibre carbs may not sit well if you’re prone to nausea while eating during or after running, so know what works for you.
Muscle is broken down during exercise and is repaired with amino acids from protein. Some Greek yoghurt, a protein shake, a meal containing eggs, meat, fish or vegan protein such as tofu, will do the trick.
Ideally food should be consumed within 20 minutes of a run, but this is only really important if exercising again later in the day, otherwise a good meal within 2 hours should suffice. If you struggle with nausea and an upset tummy, stick to easy to digest, liquid meals such as protein shake containing milk, a banana, and some whey protein, and sip on that as you wind down from your run.
There’s other recovery methods runners can use too. A warm bath containing Espom salts, massage, foam rolling and best of all a good night’s sleep will all help. And try to lay off anything that will hinder recovery like alcohol, late nights, smoking and junk food.