Running hard undoubtedly comes with rewards, including increased muscular strength in the legs and improved stamina and endurance. Continually training hard without rest, though can lead to fatigue, illness and poor performance. Taking proper care of your tired legs after a run is a crucial part of an effective, healthy workout regimen.
As you run, your body breaks down muscle proteins, lowering your levels of electrolytes and glycogen, or carbohydrates. Consuming foods that have a high glycemic index help to refuel spent muscles after a run, especially if consumed within 30 minutes after training. For a faster recovery, Boston Health Coach recommends snacking on foods such as baked potatoes, bread, oatmeal and white rice, and drinking beverages such as cranberry juice or sports drinks containing electrolytes.
Easy Does It
After a tough run, your legs may feel tired, stiff or heavy. According to Anaerobic Management, you should not train hard when you feel any of these symptoms. Instead, scale back on the intensity and go on gentler runs until your legs feel strong again. Rather than running at a moderate pace every day of the week, run faster or for a longer period of time three times a week, and go on less strenuous, relaxing runs on the other four days.
To help relax sore, tight legs, try stretching your iliotibial band, or IT band, which runs from your pelvis through the outside of the thigh down to the shin bones. Stand up straight and cross your right leg over your left so the outsides of your feet are lined up. Lean over gently toward your right side, bending over until you feel a stretch in your left leg. Shape Magazine recommends holding the stretch for 30 seconds before switching sides. Breathe deeply as you stretch.
Considerations and Concerns
Ice baths have long been been lauded and loathed as a recovery technique for runners and other athletes. This often uncomfortable, even painful, practice may not actually be effective as a recovery technique however. According to a study published by the European Journal of Applied Physiology, as reported by the University of New Hampshire, evidence suggests that ice baths do not prevent post-exercise strength loss or result in decreased muscle soreness. Though a massage may feel considerably more soothing for tired legs than an ice bath, a massage can actually slow down blood flow and hinder the removal of lactic acid from the muscles according to a study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.