The moments before and after a run are extremely crucial to the wellbeing and success of any runner. Running is a sport plagued with injury and is often condemned because of those statistics. However, it is not the actual act of running that injures us. It is the lack of preparation beforehand, and the lack of recovery afterwards. These tips will keep your body strong and healthy enough after a run so that you can do it again.

1. EAT. The body needs carbohydrates and protein within 20 minutes of any hard workout. That is why in a race volunteers are trying to stuff bagels and bananas down your throat immediately after you cross the finish line. Eat them. If you’re training by yourself, bring food with you or make sure you can buy something right away.

Right after a workout is one of the times that your body needs simple carbs. After a workout I find that for me it is best to consume these carbs in the form of fruit. If I go to they gym I’ll bring a piece of fruit and some protein-powdered water. Otherwise I’ll buy a protein shake with fruit in it.

If the body does not receive carbohydrates immediately after training, it starts to eat its own muscle mass. Muscle, NOT fat will disappear. This is because after a workout the glycogen in our muscles is depleted (Glycogen is a form of glucose that your body makes for energy. Glucose = carbohydrate). If the body can’t find the carbs it needs to restore its glycogen levels, it will get them from consuming muscle mass.
You would still lose weight (because muscle is heavier than fat), but you will be exhausted, unhealthy, and miserable. Even if your sole concern is weight loss, it is important to remember that one inactive pound of fat on your body burns about five calories an hour versus one pound of muscle, which burns 30-50 calories.

The protein is for rebuilding muscle tissue. When you exercise, you are actually creating tiny, microscopic tears in your muscles. Your body uses protein to patch up these tears, giving you that muscle growth. No protein means no repair. You won’t build muscle and you’re wasting your time. On top of that, you’ll be very sore.

After a workout I consume about 22 grams of protein (some males who lift heavy weights consume as much as 40). Chocolate milk is said to be a good recovery drink, but read the label first – it doesn’t always have enough protein (as is the case with a lot of recovery drinks).

2. STRETCH. Long and deeply. Just as much, if not more than before my workout. After a long run my muscles will try to cramp up. If you allow them to, I may find yourself injured or unable to walk. Stretching goes a long way to reduce injuries in the long-term and help your muscles recover faster.

3. REST. I don’t attempt to run again the day after a long run, or the day before. Muscles need about 48 hours of rest to fully recover and heal themselves. The risk of over-training is just as bad as under-training and often directly results in injury.

Running is not for everyone. But those know do it, love it. And those who start it must be aware of the limits of their bodies. It is just as dangerous to over-train as it is to under-train. That said, running is one of the most freeing and greatest forms of exercises that exists. But only when we do it safely.

Author's Bio: 

Vanessa Rodriguez is a freelance health journalist also pursuing certifications in both holistic nutrition and athletic training. She is currently training to qualify for the New York marathon and blogs regularly about exercise and nutrition. You can participate in her free monthly giveaways to promote general wellness and health at: