How I recover from a long run and go for another long one the next day
People often ask how I can run a long run on a given day, then go for another one the next day and the next.
Before I get into it, I want to stress that each of us is different, and we recover in different ways, at various rates and within different timeframes. So what follows is what works for me. It may also work for you, but you must try it first to know if it does. Also, don’t try my method during an event. No R&D on race day!
How do I recover for back-to-back long runs?
First, it does not happen overnight. It will take time for your body to become efficient for recovery. You will recover faster by continuing to train hard and rigorously practice the recovery process. The first try may not produce results that you can measure. You may even feel awful and scrap the whole thing as a bad idea. But everything in endurance running is about repetition and gradualness (or graduality, I’m not sure.) One thing I can guarantee is that if you do not repeat the process until you start to feel the result, you will never know if my method works for you or not.
Let’s assume you go for a long today, the first day of a long weekend, and you want to run long for the next three days (including this one.) First, what is a long run? For me, a long run is a session that exceeds my average run by anywhere between 50% and 70%. In other words, if I run a 21 km run five times a week, I would consider a long run a distance above 35 km. This long run will probably make you feel more tired than usual and significantly stiffer than you would usually feel. And that’s OK, by the way.
So, how would I recover quickly enough to cover another 35 km again tomorrow?
1) You must drink sufficiently before the run and while engaged in the activity. If you finish considerably dehydrated, your recovery will be slower (and incomplete), and running well again the next day will be compromised. So, drink adequately throughout your long run. To do so, you must have a rehearsed hydration strategy, one you have practiced successfully more than once for the long run distance (I will elaborate on the hydration strategy in a future post.) Also, I recommend you swallow one Saltstick pill (or equivalent) per hour during the long run; it will help with cramps.
2) The day before the first long run, you must eat with the total distance in mind (the sum of both long run distances). Indeed, if you do not, you will not have enough energy, and you will borrow from your energy reserves and jeopardize your second long run (even if you eat a lot between both long runs). It is like taking a loan from the bank, continuing to borrow, knowing you will never be able to reimburse the total amount because you can never get ahead.
3) The recovery process starts right after the long run ends. If I run anywhere between 21 and 35 km, I will dilute two scoops of a great recovery drink powder, Tailwind Recovery (vanilla in my case), in 500 ml of cold water. I will drink the whole thing right away after getting back home. If you have it in your car, even better, but then again, I don’t drive.
4) I will eat a full meal within the hour after completing the long run. I will ingest meat (sorry, vegans, you are on your own to figure out what is an adequate replacement), vegetables, fruit, and fluids. Remember that you will have to run this distance (or more) tomorrow, and the effects of today’s run may compound.
5) Eat sufficiently for dinner. Drink according to what you can tolerate (and I don’t mean alcohol.) I recommend you ingest another 500 ml of Tailwind at dinner.
6) Sleep early and long enough. This one is a hard one for me. I can sleep early, but not long enough. Generally, the more you sleep, the better your recovery will be. I recommend a minimum of 6 to 8 hours. For less than 6 hours, you may not have given a fair enough chance to your body to repair all the micro tears it sustained during your previous run. For longer than 8 hours, you may feel sluggish. Sleep is a trial and error situation. So, see what works for you.
7) In the morning, right out of bed, drink 500 ml of cold water (or a Gatorade-like concoction) right away. You may have coffee or whatever else you drink in the morning. Eat with the running start time in mind. Generally, I will eat and wait a minimum of two hours before running. The two-hour period will provide me with ample time to visit the restroom.
I execute this process religiously, and it works wonders for me. But, when I don’t, I feel miserable during the second long run. I still complete the second run, but recovery from it will be considerably longer.
Now, it’s up to you. Remember, the results will not be visible (feelable) on the first try. You must execute the recovery process a few times to help your body adapt. Only then will you start feeling the benefits.
That’s all for now, folks!