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After a hard workout, it can be tempting to lie on the couch and watch TV for a few hours. And then when it’s time for bed, you brush your teeth and lie down for the night. Even if you’re getting sore from the fast workout or long run earlier in the day, the best thing is sleep right?
Yes, but it’s not the only thing. If you just go to sleep, it’s almost guaranteed that you wake up the next morning feeling tight and stiff. You’ll also likely have “hot spots” – areas that are particularly sore because of your running stride inefficiencies or weak areas.
Our goal is to prevent that feeling of over-tightness. Being sore is normal if you’re running a lot or training hard, but you shouldn’t be too sore. Don’t blame the soreness on your running shoes or that cheeseburger this afternoon – it’s most likely your workouts!
So instead of going to bed tight, here are four ways to massage those tired muscles and help your body recover faster.
Roll your feet on a golf ball
Your feet take a lot of impact abuse when running – especially when you’re running fast. Each foot strike absorbs at least twice your body weight so it’s important to take care of your feet. Using a golf ball to roll your arch and plantar fascia can help alleviate soreness.
There’s no “best” way to roll your foot on a golf ball. Just sit on a chair or your couch and put your foot on top of the ball. Using a little bit of pressure, roll around your foot and search for areas that are especially tight. Spend more time on those areas and give yourself a good massage. It shouldn’t hurt, but it may be sensitive. That’s okay!
Use a foam roller
The foam roller is any distance runner’s best friend. Use it on any muscle that’s particularly sore to roll out any muscle adhesions, promote extra blood flow, and help loosen your muscles. Like with the golf ball, just get on top of the foam roller and feel around for areas that are tight.
Spend 20 seconds to a full minute on each area, lightly or moderately rolling over your quad, hamstring, calf, or glute. Different muscles get sore for different runners, so roll everything to find what fits for you. Just don’t spend 5 minutes or more on one muscle or you could make yourself even more sore.
Make an ice cup
This one is half massage, half icing, all recovery! Just get a paper cup and freeze it full of water. Once it’s frozen, unwrap the top third and use it to massage any muscle that’s sore. It’s an amazing tool to get deep into your muscles and reduce inflammation.
There are also plastic cups that are sold that can be used for this purpose. They unscrew halfway down so you can remove the top half. Both work – just make sure you put a towel down to catch the water that melts off.
Roll your quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors on a tennis ball
The tennis ball is one of the most under-appreciated massage tools that a runner has at their disposal. It’s like a foam roller with a little more intensity. It’s best used on your hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors. Just get on top of it and gently use it to roll out the tight spots in your legs.
Since it’s more aggressive than using a foam roller, be careful not to be overzealous with the tennis ball. In this case, it’s better to under-massage than over-massage.
When used after your long runs, hard workouts, or even your easy runs to promote extra recovery, these strategies will help you reduce your overall soreness and recover faster.
With increased recovery and less “hot spots” in your muscles, you may even have fewer overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis and be able to train more consistently. And we all know that consistency is king!