In an ideal world, completing a running workout would go something like this: prefuel – warmup – workout – cooldown – stretch – refuel.
However, people who have been running for years know that not every workout goes to plan. Our lives tend to be packed full of activities, both work and pleasure related. We often find that we are squeezing a run into whatever short amount of time is available in between the other items on our calendar.
So rather than following through with each step of the ideal workout, we choose to skip one or more. Many times we forgo everything except the run itself.
Skipping some of the steps may not be the best plan, but it is okay to do when necessary. No irreparable harm should come from skipping one or more.
Here is a list of 6 things NOT TO DO after a run.
1. Lay or Sit Down Immediately and Not Move for Hours
Even (and especially) if you don’t have time to stretch after a run, you should try to keep your muscles moving. Sitting or laying down right after a run can cause muscle tightness, cramping or even worse.
In extreme cases, some athletes have experienced blood clots by sitting on an airplane after long runs. This situation can be easily avoided by adopting a couple of habits.
First, make sure to keep moving after your run. Walking for even a few minutes can allow the blood and lactic acid that has accumulated in your leg muscles to dissipate and circulate throughout the body.
Second, if you must be seated for long periods, try to get up and stretch your legs whenever possible. If standing isn’t an option, flexing and stretching your leg muscles while seated is another way to help avoid clots. [source]
2. Stay in The Same Clothes All Day Long Without Showering
Running causes us to sweat, and sweaty clothes become the perfect breeding ground (heat and moisture) to produce bacteria.
Not only does this mean our clothes will stink, it can also lead to some pretty gross skin conditions. Things like chafing, rashes and infections can all develop by wearing damp workout clothes all day long.
By showering after a workout, we are able to wash away the salt, sweat, and grime that tends to accumulate as we exercise. If you are unable to take the time to shower, at least take a minute to switch out your sweaty running clothes for fresh ones.
While the bacteria will still be present, there will be less of a moist habitat for it to multiply and possibly cause skin issues.
3. Keep Your Running Shoes on While You Run Errands
Running shoes last longer and stay in better shape if they are worn only while we are doing a run workout. Continuing to wear them throughout the day after an exercise session will cause them to undergo extra wear and tear that will reduce their useful lifespan.
Running shoes are the most expensive piece of equipment that runners need to buy, so it only makes sense to take care of them so they can last as long as possible.
In addition to the extra abuse your shoes may endure, wearing them around after a run keeps them from being able to rest. Just like us, our shoes need to rest after a workout. It can take several hours or even a day before a pair of running shoes can rebound and decompress after the impact they absorb during a run.
As mentioned in this article, it is best practice to let running shoes rest for at least an entire day after a workout. Running in “tired” shoes can cause a runner to develop pain points and even put them at risk for injury.
Letting shoes rest enables them to be the most effective tool they can be and can help avoid those types of issues.
4. Begin a 12 Hour Fast
Running burns fuel, especially when we are out pounding the pavement for long periods of time. We need to replenish our fuel stores soon after that workout is finished or else risk an energy crash later that day.
I asked a friend who is a long-time runner what she thought was the worst thing to do after a run. Katie’s answer? “The worst thing is to not eat. I learned the hard way that I need to take in carbs and protein within 20 minutes after a run.”
Running experts and exercise scientists all agree on this point. Even the world-renowned Mayo Clinic weighs in on the subject with the following statement from (Source):
To help your muscles recover and to replace their glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your exercise session if possible. Consider a snack if your meal is more than two hours away. Good post-workout food choices include:
- Yogurt and fruit
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Low-fat chocolate milk and pretzels
- Post-workout recovery smoothie
- Turkey on whole-grain bread with vegetables
I always keep a supply of protein bars on hand in case I have to bolt out the door after a run (my favorite ones are mostly nuts covered with dark chocolate!). That way I have something that can hold me over until I have time to put a proper meal together.
5. Eat an Entire Pizza (or Pint of Ice Cream)
On the other end of the spectrum, it’s important not to go overboard and binge on unhealthy foods after a run. The refueling meal after an endurance exercise session should be an appropriate mixture of mostly carbohydrates accompanied by smaller amounts of lean protein and fat.
I totally get it – running burns a lot of calories and can cause us to be ravenous. It’s so tempting to think that we have earned the ability to eat whatever we want afterwards.
But even though our brain and taste buds might enjoy it, eating large amounts of fatty or sugary foods doesn’t do anything to reward the body for the workout it just endured.
In fact, those types of foods have quite the opposite effect. Instead of the reward we might think they are, fatty and sugary foods are a punishment for our bodies. By binging, we are causing our systems to work harder by processing items they have no need for and starving them of the nutrients they require.
6. Donate Blood or Plasma
While I appreciate and wholly support the idea of donating blood (or plasma) to a charitable organization like the Red Cross – it’s probably not a good idea to do so immediately after running.
Donating fluids can make us lightheaded or dizzy on the best of days. Doing so after a run could quickly turn that positive gesture into a bad situation. Being even slightly dehydrated causes our blood to be thicker than normal and can make it much harder for the donation process.
Ideally, you would be able to schedule a session like this to take place on a rest day. However, if your donation has to take place after a workout, make sure you give your body the chance to recover and take in plenty of calories and fluids before you sit in the chair and get hooked up.
Avoid falling into the trap of doing those after a run and you’ll be far better off. Happy running, everyone!