Post-Run Recovery: 2 Tools + 4 Moves to Keep On Running

What's your post-run recovery plan?

You know...

  • Do you stretch, roll or jump in an ice bath after a run? 
  • Or do you skip post-run recovery stuff hoping those little niggly aches and pains magically go away?
  • Maybe you think it's time for a post-run recovery routine, but you keep saying "I'll start tomorrow." That ever happen?

If you're looking for a post-run recovery routine to help you prevent injury, recover faster and keep going, keep reading.

In this article, runner Natalie Rizzo shows you what post-run recovery looks like with just 2 tools + 4 moves.

Natalie Rizzo is a freelance writer, endurance triathlete, and marine biologist based in Davis, Calif. She's also a brand ambassador for Athletic Brewing.

😭When your body tells you it's time for some post-run recovery...

There may come a day when your runs might start running you down.

Here's a little piece of advice:

  • The sooner you can recognize and connect with your body and the arduous stress that it endures during running, the better you can mitigate against injuries and recover faster. 

Running has always been integrated into my general fitness routine, I love the clarity I find while running and the accomplishment of moving my body for a set amount of time or distance.

Running started to beat me down when I turned 30. I know, I know, this sounds cliché,  but although I am hitting PRs in my distance my body is in a bit more pain than it used to be. 

Know the feeling?

Tuning into my body aches and then mindfully recognizing how to recover has improved my body and my mental state. 

When Natalie Rizzo increased her training volume, she needed to find a way to speed post-run recovery.

🏃‍♀️Meet runner Natalie Rizzo

My connection to running dates back to joining the middle school cross country club and blossomed from there.

Although I pursued a plethora of sports, including playing Division I Volleyball, running has always been there for me when I needed to:

  • Release stress
  • Attempt a new challenge
  • Connect with runners in my community

Currently, I am training for longer endurance triathlons and races which includes some tough interval running (and a newfound love for zone 2 running).

It didn't take long to find out that higher-volume training takes a bigger toll on the body, and I needed to find a way to recover faster.

If you're looking for a post-run recovery routine, keep reading to learn about the 2 tools and 4 moves I use.

And check out Natalie's WeeViews...

An effective post-run recovery routine can help prevent injuries, repair muscle damage, and help you feel better.

3 reasons to make time for post-run recovery

There are a multitude of benefits to making post-run recovery part of your training schedule, such as...

  1. Injury prevention. We all know running is stressful on the body (if this is new to you, I suggest doing a little research). Incorporating some recovery exercises into your routine allows for your tendons and ligaments to gain strength and increase mobility that can benefit your running. Gaining flexibility and mobility in your joints minimizes your chances of injury.
  2. Muscle repair. Resting has its benefits, allowing your muscles to rebuild micro-damages induced by running. Resting recovery also replenishes glycogen stores that diminish while you run.
  3. Mental restoration. Practicing with recovery tools allows you to connect with parts of your body you don’t generally attend to. You can also build more awareness of your body space, bringing you peace through mindfulness.

2 post-run recovery tools for runners

Of the endless choices of post-run recovery tools, I have found TWO essential pieces that complement each other well and help me stay fresh!

Foam rolling can help reduce muscle tightness and inflammation, promote blood circulation, and help flush metabolic waste accumulated through exercise.

1. Foam roller

First up, I want to talk about foam rolling. I foam roll my back every day in the morning when I wake up and specific areas before and after my runs.

Chances are you have seen either a small or long foam roller sitting in the corner of your local gym, they are great for muscle recovery for all types of workouts.

Foam rollers can come in different densities depending on the amount of pain you want to endure… I mean the amount of pressure you prefer. 😂

Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique that uses pressure to alleviate muscle tightness and inflammation with numerous scientific studies discussing the benefits of incorporating foam rolling as a warm-up or recovery tool.

Foam rolling works by reducing muscle tension with the application of pressure which promotes blood circulation that can flush muscles from metabolic waste accumulated through exercise. 

Massage balls are great for targeting specific areas of muscle tension and are easy to bring with along when traveling

2. Massage ball

My second favorite recovery tool is a massage ball.

When I started experiencing minor foot pain from tendonitis, my physical therapist recommended a massage ball.

What's a massage ball?

  •  A massage ball is about the size of a tennis or baseball, and if you have either of those laying around they will work in the same way!
  • The baseball will apply more pressure and the tennis ball lighter pressure. 
  • A massage ball has a pressure application somewhere in between the two. 

Massage balls are great for targeting specific areas of muscle tension and are easy to bring with along when traveling. 

Since they are smaller, it is important to practice applying light pressure and work up to what works for your body.

Post-run recovery: 4 moves to feel better

Over the past year with the increase in my endurance training I had a lot more aches and pains come up...

A few of which led me to a physical therapist just to be sure I did not have more serious injuries.

Luckily they all were minor bothers that could be treated with these recovery exercises.

😲It is astonishing how incorporating these exercises completely eliminated some tendonitis issues I experienced.

😲NOTE: Foam rolling saved my IT bands! I had 3 runs in a week that I ended early because of pain in my outer knee and along my IT band. 

Check out these moves to for post-run recovery and relief...

1. Foam roll your glutes

1. Foam roll your glutes

Glutes:

  • Align the foam roller so it will roll left to right.
  • Make a figure four by bending both legs and crossing one ankle to the knee of the other leg. 
  • Set the foam roller under the glute that has the foot on the ground and roll across your glute left to right. 

👉This one is one of the best post-run recovery moves for runners.

2. Foam roll your hamstrings.

2. Foam roll your hamstrings

Hamstrings:

  • Transition the foam roller to have the roller rolling forward and backwards. 
  • Start with the foam roller on one leg with it straightened out and the other leg ben.
  • You will use your bent leg to leverage your movement and adjust the pressure applied to your hamstring. 
  • With your bent leg, roll your foam roller leg forward and backward along the roller. 
  • The more your sink your weight into the foam roller the deeper the roller will penetrate. 

👉Roll up and down your leg 10 times.

3. Foam roll your IT bands

3. Foam roll your IT bands

IT Bands:

  • Roll onto your side with the foam roller starting above your outer knee. 
  • Your free leg should be bent and positioned in front of your straightened foam rolling leg. 
  • This one takes a big of balance and practice to move your bent leg forward and backward to roll your straight leg on the foam roller.
  • The pressure might be intense if your IT bands are tight. You can adjust the pressure by rolling slower and holding more of your weight on your bent leg.

 👉Bonus: The insertion point of your IT band is where a lot of tightness is held. You can target this area by rotating your core to face the floor. You can pair this movement with the rolling to break up tightness in your hip area.

4. Foam roll your quads

4. Foam roll your quads

Quads:

  • Continue your movement of rolling your IT insertion into rolling your quads. 
  • You will rotate your core towards the floor and use your hands to support your weight and roll you quad along the foam roller. 
  • Your bent leg can also support some of your weight if the pressure is too intense. 

Try this morning back routine with the foam roller

Stretch your back with this morning foam-roller routine.

Every morning as a part of my yoga stretching, I use the foam roller to open up my thoracic spine.

I sleep on my side which crunches my shoulders and makes me feel stiff so this is a great way to loosen up for the day.

Give this morning foam-rolling routine a try...

  • Set the foam roller at the mid point of your back.
  • Keep your abs engaged and your butt on the mat.
  • Set your arms behind your head as if you were starting sit-ups.
  • Lean back over the foam roller and open your arms, then close your arms and curl your body inward. 

👉Do this 10 times or until your feel stretched! 

Massage-ball magic: 2 ways to use this tool

This little ball might bring you to tears. But it can also release tension in some tight spots.

My physical therapist recommended using the massage ball to warm up and loosen up my foot muscles and tendons.

👉Please be extra mindful when you start the massage ball routine. Why? Working with your body weight can place a lot of pressure on an area.

Using a massage ball can help release tension in the foot to speed recovery and prevent injuries like plantar fasciitis.

1. Massage your foot

I took a deep dive into training with zero-drop shoes this year.

Wearing barefoot shoes has brought some soreness to my feet.

I use the massage ball on the underside of my foot to loosen up tight area around the arch of my foot. 

  • Sit on the floor, and place the massage ball under your foot.
  • You can apply more pressure by sitting in a chair or standing.
  • Gently apply pressure.
  • Roll the ball forward and backwards, and in a circular pattern for a few minutes.
Using a massage ball can help release tension in the glutes and IT bands.

2. Massage your glutes and IT band

Another spot I use the ball on is on that sweet spot where glutes connect with your IT band.

👉I had some serious tension and pain along my IT band that was cleared up by integrating this into my routine. 

Again this exercise will take some practice and bring some intense pressure so start light! 

  • Position yourself in the same way for foam rolling your IT band.
  • Set the ball in the recess of your glute/ IT band top insertion. 
  • Use your bent leg and your arms to support your weight as you find the correct area. 
  • Once you feel settled, you can use small rotations atop the ball to loosen up the area.
  • There are plenty of other beneficial spots to incorporate rolling on the massage ball. It can target smaller areas like your neck as well.

NOTE: I also like to count to use 10 breathes as a measure that can be useful as well.

Roll it out to keep on running

Looking for more tips and routines for using a foam roller or massage ball for running recovery?

YouTube is a great resource for additional rolling material.

Check out these resources:

What's your favorite recovery routine using a foam roller or massage ball?

We would love to hear about it.

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Natalie Rizzo
Copenhagen, Denmark
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Gear and data-obsessed marine biologist enthused about all things endurance/adventure racing. Currently, I am living in Copen...

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