Before Boston, I walked the ROLL Recovery crew through my everyday recovery routine:
I thought it would be helpful to go a little deeper into what I do to stay as healthy as possible, to start and end runs in a good state, and to promote recovery between sessions and seasons.
Gone are the days of rolling out of bed, throwing my shoes on, and flying out the door for run #1. Because I run significantly more than I did in college, have way more miles in my legs, and am a recent inductee into the 30s club, it takes much more time and effort to get my body ready to run—especially first thing in the morning. After I wake up, pour a cup of coffee, and have a bite to eat, here are the things I do to prepare for a run:
- Hip flexor stretch– In a half-kneeling position, I stretch out each hip flexor by doing 8 2-second stretches towards the front leg, activating my glute and engaging my abs with each stretch. I then move the front leg slightly out and do another round of 8 2-second stretches towards that leg, this time getting a groin stretch too.
- Hip and glute rolling– Lying on the ground, the R3 beneath me, I go through a number of positions on my front and back to loosen up my hip and glute regions. When I roll over a tight or tender spot, I’ll linger on the R3 for a few seconds and then move the leg that’s on it in different directions. (See video above)
- Back rolling– Using 2 tennis balls duct-taped together (rigged up by the fine folks at Maximum Mobility in Phoenix), I lie on my back on the ground and do some gentle rolling up and down my back. To go deeper, I hold my arms out in front of my body (towards the ceiling) and alternate dropping each arm as well as both at the same time, working the tennis balls all the way up my back.
- Arm swings– Next, holding onto a long foam roller (one end in each hand), I stand shoulder-width apart, hold my arms out in front of me, and twist my torso to each side, letting the foam roller swing all the back on each side. If I don’t have a foam roller, I’ll just do big torso twists with my arms out in front of me.
- Hip mobility– On my hands on knees, I then go through a hip mobility sequence, 8x on each leg: Donkey kicks (kicking my foot up to the ceiling until my quad is parallel with my back), Fire hydrants (bringing my knee out and up, hence the name), and Trail legs (kicking 1 leg straight back and circling it up and around as if it were a trail leg over a hurdle). (See video above)
- Leg swings– Holding onto a wall, fence, or bench, I do 8 forward leg swings on each side (swinging the leg closest to the wall, and keeping it pretty straight going up and letting it bend naturally going back). Then I face the wall, hold on with both hands, and do 8 side leg swings on each leg.
- Lunges– Next I do 10 forward lunges, 10 lunges to the right, and 10 lunges to the left, going slow, keeping my core engaged, and aiming for a deep stretch with each lunge.
- Ankle mobility– Using a firm strap (not stretchy), I loop it around the bottom of one ankle, elevate that foot a few inches (1 stair is perfect), bring the opposite leg back into a split stance, step on the other end of the strap so it’s tight around my ankle, and do 20 gentle lunges (knee moving just past my ankle before going back). Switch sides.
- Glute activation– Standing a few inches from a wall, legs shoulder-width apart and toes pointing slightly out, I put both hands against the wall, bend down into a gentle squat, and then stand straight up while leaning/pressing into the wall with my hands, pressing into the floor with my feet (keeping the balls of my feet flat), and driving my legs both forward and out. This is a hard one to describe, but it essentially activates my glutes and gets them ready to fire on the run.
POST-RUN & LATER
Refueling: As soon as I finish a run, my first priority is replenishing my spent fuel. That always starts with water. If it was an easy run that ended near home, my go-to breakfast is a bowl of loaded oatmeal. If it was a workout, I make sure to have a smoothie or protein bar waiting for me in the car. When I get home, I dig into a more substantial meal (more often than not involving sourdough, eggs, avocado, and fruit).
More mobility & rolling: Either while eating or just after, I recycle bits of my pre-run routine. I always do another round of hip flexor stretches and hip mobility, and then I add on other elements based on how I’m feeling, what my body seems to need, and how much time I have. If I’m especially sore in any area, this is when I typically put my R8 to use.
Napping: Another important part of my recovery routine is napping, which I try to do for 30-60 minutes every day. As a poor nighttime sleeper, I’ve come to rely heavily on these midday refreshers, especially since I train twice most days. If you’re not in a position to nap, I recommend finding another way to infuse each afternoon with some purposeful rest, such as a meditation or legs-up-the-wall session.
Stretching: Later in the day (usually while I’m winding down before bed), I spend about 20 minutes going through an Active Isolated Stretching routine created by Phil and Jim Wharton. All it requires is a rope, some floor space, and familiarity with the AIS method and philosophy. To get started, see the books and videos at whartonhealth.com.
Water therapy: I’m a big fan of water therapy, either in the form of water-jogging in the deep end of a pool, hot tubbing after a workout, or taking a warm Epsom salt bath before I go to bed. All of those feel great, leave me in a good state, and promote relaxation if nothing else. (For more info on Epsom salt baths and my nighttime routine, go here.)
Bodywork: I’m fortunate to have found awesome bodywork practitioners everywhere that I’ve lived and trained. I currently get soft tissue therapy / ART (active release technique) every other week, as well as less frequent massages during big training blocks. They aren’t cheap, but neither is being injured—which is why I think it’s a good idea to invest in yourself on the front end and establish relationships with experts you trust.
Despite everything I just wrote, recovery doesn’t need to be overly complicated or time-consuming. Our bodies are amazingly smart, durable, and capable of restoring themselves. The important thing is to identify what makes you feel good, is sustainable, and gives you confidence that you’re doing your best and taking care of your body. For reinforcement of that message, check out Christie Aschwanden’s new book Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery.
*While I have received free product from ROLL Recovery, the thoughts above are uncompensated and authentic.