Recovery methods for hard workouts

My husband, who has a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, helped me write this post. I will explain all of the different ways I recover from hard runs and lifting sessions. 

Stretching: I always try to get a good stretch in after a lift and a run, regardless of how hard I went in that session. Some of my go to stretches are: standing calf stretching with straight knee and bent knee to target both gastrocnemius and soleus, hamstring stretching laying on my back and using a strap on my foot (this makes sure you aren’t compensating and stretching a different muscle), quad stretch laying on my stomach with strap attached to my foot, butterfly stretch for adductors (inner thigh muscles), piriformis stretching with my foot and knee up on the back of a bench or my couch (YouTube or google for a picture), hip flexor stretch in lunge. All stretches should be held for 20 seconds on each leg. A little stretching can go a long way. Yoga is also good for runners to do but I don't personally do yoga. 

Tools: I have some awesome recovery tools that I like to use. The first tool we bought, was the Normatech recovery boots. These are really expensive (it took us awhile to save up for them) but they are awesome for keeping your legs refreshed. I try to get in my boots at least once a week (having a baby at home makes it a little difficult to find the time to use the boots). Ideally you would use them after all of your hard workouts. We used these boots a lot while training for our Ironman. Unfortunately, I dropped our boots on the way to Disney World when I was doing the Dopey Challenge, so they don’t work as good as they did when we first got them. 

My husbands favorite tool is the Swede by Verktyg. He uses this on me all the time. It is his favorite instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) tool. He uses this tool to scrape over my skin with repetitive strokes to stimulate mechanoreceptors and increase superficial circulation to the site which promotes healing and increases overall mobility. This treatment turns my skin red in areas of tissue restrictions, which causes the body to send blood to the area for the healing affect. Use discount code is "mcm15" for 15% off. 


Compression Clothing is another great recovery tool. They make all kinds of compression clothes: arm sleeves, shirts, short, pants, and socks. I use compression socks and pants. I put them on after a hard workout or if I’m traveling to a race. My favorite brand is C3FIT, they make a great product and their tights are super cute! 

There are countless rolling tools available and we have a few of them but our go to tool is a $4 rolling pin. Yes, one that you would use in the kitchen. Find a wooden one with handles and you will be able to roll out your muscles yourself (especially your quads). I should roll more often than I do, even 5 minutes a day should help your muscles.  

Ice Bath:  Take an ice bath. They are painful, but they are so beneficial. The current research shows that ice baths reduce the markers in the body for inflammation. This means the body can recover quicker after hard workouts and reduces muscle soreness. While there are conflicting studies as to how beneficial they are, there are no studies indicating negative effects. And I feel better after taking one! If you don’t have a tub you can use a big trash can. You should try to stay in for 10 minutes but no longer. The bath should be between 50-59 degrees, but most research shows 53-54 degrees to be the optimal temperature for a 10 minute ice bath. When your body gets used to the cold, stir the water with your feet to keep the cold water circulating. You guys gave me some great tips for how to stay warm during an ice bath on THIS instagram post. Drinking something hot and wearing a jacket, gloves, and hat helps me get through ice baths. 

Manual Therapy: I am super lucky that husband performs a lot of manual therapy on me. He does trigger point release: where he finds little knots in my muscles and pushes on them in a specific way to get the muscle to loosen. Trigger point dry needling: using an acupuncture needle to perform a trigger point release. This one can be pretty painful during the treatment but it feels so much better after! Joint mobilization: he uses his hands to increase the mobility of joints that don’t move like they should by moving them a specific way. IASTM: you can read about this earlier in the post. General soft tissue mobilization: this is basically regular massage (my favorite!). Ice massage: this is used when something starts to bother me and has some inflammation in the area. He usually uses a frozen water bottle to massage the area. This helps decrease inflammation.

Post Workout Nutrition: Nutrition plays a huge role in recovery. Every single workout, whether it’s an easy day or a hard day, should have a post nutrition component. For me, it’s almost always chocolate milk. It’s quick, easy, cheap, and productive! There are countless scholarly studies you can look up that show how well chocolate milk works post workout. My professors were always talking about chocolate milk in school. This is how I tackle my post workout nutrition: hard days = chocolate milk with one scoop of whey protein. Right now I am using this Advocare Whey Protein until I get some of Vital Proteins Collagen Whey Protein in September. They have Banana, Cinnamon, Vanilla and Vanilla and Coconut Water that I can't wait to try. On my easy days = chocolate milk with one scoop of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. I usually drink 8oz of chocolate milk. I use whole milk and chocolate syrup, unless I can find whole milk chocolate milk, then I use that. Why do I use Collagen protein? Collagen has some great benefits for runners. The biggest benefit, is the joint health that collagen provides. If you are curious about the current research on collagen and joint health, go to PubMed and read over the studies. This is a great website to find peer reviewed scholarly studies. I also take these Advocare CitriZinc chews after each workout to keep up with my vitamin C and zinc. 

Happy Training  :)


  • Alexa,

    It is my understanding through the research that whole chocolate milk is the best. However, depending on why you don’t drink milk, there are a lot of options that would come really close. Lactose free milk or A2 milk are great options! You could also use a CHO drink such as Gatorade and add a scoop of protein powder to satisfy the CHO and PRO needs post workout. I’m not sure how good that would taste though.

  • Joy,

    The water in our house does not get cold enough to be able to use ice form the freezer. So we will go and buy a bag of ice from the gas station when we take an ice bath.

  • I like the chocolate milk for the recovery nutrition but I’m a vegetarian who does not drink milk. Weird I know, but I’m hoping you might know of an alternative to whole milk that could be just as effective.

  • Love the post! Do you use ice from your own freezer, or does it require enough to need to buy it at the store?


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