Exhaustion. Wonderful, fulfilling exhaustion. You know, that feeling that overcomes you as you take the final few steps of your weekly long run. You did it. You got up before the sun, fueled properly, and spent the whole morning putting miles under your feet and fulfilling one of your most important training obligations. As you slow to a walk and breathe a sigh of satisfied relief, you’re probably already thinking about what’s next. That’s where so many runners make their first—of many—mistakes after a long run. Here are a few of the most common mistakes runners make on their long run days; if you’re guilty of a few (aren’t we all?!), just remember that it’s never too late to change your ways—there’s always your next run.
Overindulge in Post-Run Foods
You just burned 1,000–2,000 calories. To say you’re hungry is a severe understatement, and anything you eat in those first couple hours following your run is going to be the best damn fill-in-the-blank you’ve ever had. It’s beyond easy to reach for those foods you spent all week avoiding because you know they’re horrible for you. You know they will taste delicious, you feel like you’ve “earned” them, and they are so convenient. But don’t do it. Just don’t. They will likely replace many—if not all—of those hard-earned burned calories with empty calories and heaps of guilt and disappointment. Instead, feed those hunger pains with protein-rich foods, vegetables, and other nutritious foods that are still going to taste devine. After all—you earned it.
Ice Bath, Schmice Bath
This one is really easy to talk yourself out of. Unless you’re Wim Hof, ice baths suck. They are generally miserable and consist of seeing how long you can endure a form of torture following a long run (arguably another form of torture). It just seems mean to suggest to runners to comply with the ice bath suggestion but, like so many helpful things in life, the suggestion keeps popping up for a very good reason—it works. It does wonders in reducing swelling and inflammation in your traumatized muscles, also noticeably reducing pain and soreness as your recover. Ice baths are not fun. They are not relaxing. They are not enjoyable in the least. But they are totally worth it.
Energizer Bunny Syndrome.
You just ran a load of miles—you feel invincible! Sore, tired, and hobbling—but invincible! So, you agree to meet a friend for a walk, do the weekly grocery shopping, pick up the kids from gymnastics, wash the car, mow the lawn, and clean out the entire attic. Then, it’s 5 p.m. and you collapse on the couch, feeling sick to your stomach and fighting off a migraine. You did way too much today. Even if you feel great throughout your long run, it’s still more than your body is used to doing at one time—after all, the point of a long run is to prepare your feet and mind for the extreme challenge of the long distance race. You need to respect that. Give your body the care it deserves after accomplishing such a feat, and go easy the rest of the day. You don’t have to be a couch potato, but the attic can wait, perhaps the kids or your partner could wash the car, and the grass won’t be notably longer if you wait one more day to cut it.
You just completed more miles than you’ve run the rest of the week combined. You’re tired. You just want to go home, take a hot shower, and sit down. Of course, we all want that after our long run. Some of us do exactly that. And others—the ones more likely to actually make it uninjured to the race they’re training for —take the extra ten minutes and stretch before heading home. Yes, stretching usually sounds as appealing as applying hydrogen peroxide to your burst blister, but it’s just as helpful for a clean outcome. If you’ve already dedicated hours to a single run, what is ten more minutes that will help work some lactic acid out of your poor tired muscles and reduce soreness later?
You Gotta Fight For Your Right to Paaaaarty!
Whether you’ve caught a second (or third or fourth) wind, or you are wanting to make up for the “lost time” your long run took from your day, too many runners stay up as late as usual, or even later than usual, on long run days. Huge mistake. Trust us, as soon as you lie down, you’ll be out for the count.
Your long run may only take a couple hours out of your day to physically run, but you really ought to dedicate the whole day to doing the long run right, which includes proper recovery. This training is helping you be a better you in so many ways, but it doesn’t stop just because the run is over.