A Dirtbag Runner’s Guide to Recovery: Part 2

This article is the conclusion of a two-part series on running recovery. Miss Part 1? Click here. Written by DBR Ambassador Jenny Dalimata Recovery Hack…


This article is the conclusion of a two-part series on running recovery. Miss Part 1? Click here.
Written by DBR Ambassador Jenny Dalimata

Recovery Hack #3: STRETCH

Recovery is just as important as the workout itself.  I like what Danny Dreyer says in his book Chi Running: “After a run is the time to allow the results of your efforts to settle into your body and the time to do what it takes to physically recover so you can move into your next activity with a rejuvenated body and a clear mind.”  Make sure you allow yourself time to do this important work! There are lots of therapies you can do for yourself out there, whether it’s Tai Chi, yoga, deep stretching, meditation, restorative work, massage, or something of the like. I like to finish my cooldown and begin rehydrating, then do some light stretching before I go to a space where I can get deeper into the restorative work.

One interesting study showed that stretching AFTER a workout, especially static stretching (where you hold the stretch for a longer period of time as opposed to dynamic stretching, where you quickly stretch the muscles repeatedly for very brief moments) after exercise was paramount to preventing and treating muscle imbalances and repeated risk of injury (Behm and Kibele, 2007).  The same study showed that static stretching BEFORE a workout negatively affected the athlete’s performance and increased the risk of injury.  So be careful if you stretch before a run: many experts in the field recommend not stretching until you are warmed up, or doing dynamic stretches instead.  After the workout though, go for it!  Do some research, go to some yoga/pilates classes, get a book or a video, or anything to educate yourself on how to stretch properly.  Position is important and you can injure yourself stretching improperly, so if you are unsure or need more information, go get it!  Just make sure it’s from a reputable source.

As runners, I find that we need to focus on our hips, legs, feet, and trunk the most.  Hold gentle stretches for at least 30 seconds while focusing on breathing, and never overdo it, you don’t want to pull a muscle stretching: think 80 percent of the full stretch and aim for that to start.

10-minute Leg drains are also very beneficial.  Find a wall and lay down on your back with your butt up against it, and your legs resting on the wall above you.  Danny Dreyer recommends “wringing out your legs” – starting at the ankles, squeeze your hands around your legs and work them back up toward your torso while doing your leg drains.  For an added stretch in this position, spread your legs apart and you’ll feel it in your adductors.  This is not only good for your muscles and immune system, but having the legs elevated helps move metabolic waste and lactic acid to be flushed into your bloodstream and eliminated from your body (Dreyer, 2004).

Recovery Hack #4: FOAM ROLL

To complement the stretching, I have also developed a close, intimate relationship with my foam roller.  Rolling out your quads and IT band daily really helps prevent running injuries to your knees and hips.  If you really want to get into it, commit a large portion of your day to going to a hot spring, hot tub, or sauna, and bring a theracane, a foam roller, a yoga mat, and a big bottle of water.  Warm and loosen your muscles up, then start working on breaking up scar tissue and fascia, moving metabolic waste into your blood to be flushed out, followed by some really deep, restorative stretching (all the while staying properly hydrated, of course!).

Doing hot/cold treatments like a sauna to a cold pool or shower and back again flushes blood through your system, from your organs to your extremities and back again, to help work waste out of your body.  I recommend starting with 12 minutes of hot and 10 minutes of cold and repeating 3 times.  You can always do more than that but start slow, especially if you’re not used to it, but be sure to learn how to do this properly and safely before you dive into this kind of work.

A great resource for recovery information is a massage therapist: One study done on parathletes demonstrated that massage intervention could be effective for alleviating delayed onset muscle soreness, as well as increasing muscle performance after strenuous exercise. The highest efficacy was achieved at 48 hours post-exercise. Massage is a useful and practical therapy for exercise participants or athletes (Guo et. al., 2017).  Another study showed that massage therapy was useful in reducing recovery time and helping with sleep (Kennedy, Patil, and Trilk, 2018).  I also like to practice meditation to focus on breathing.  My kinesiologist recommends singing for breathing regulation.  Really anything you can do during the course of your day to take a few minutes to focus on regulating your breathing helps to keep stress down, and gives your heart muscles a rest, which aids in recovery.

Recovery Hack #5: SLEEP

Sleep is one of the most important aspects to recovery. Not just after a big run, always. This is when your body does most of its repair work. Make sure you have enough time to sleep, and if you have trouble sleeping, take that time to at least lay at rest so your body can catch up with the day. If you have problems sleeping, try some focused meditation. The more you practice meditation, the better your body will get at using that time to do repair work. And you may even relax yourself enough to fall asleep.


Sometimes we are in a lot of pain during and/or after a run.  There are some things you can do on your own to help yourself when this happens, without taking harmful drugs like ibuprofen.  If you have inflammation, get yourself into a cold bath, or safely ice the area that is inflamed, ensuring to protect the skin from ice to avoid burns. You can use a towel soaked in ice cold water, that is a very safe way to get inflammation down.  Soak the body or body areas in cold water for 10-15 minutes at a time. Do this 2-3 times the first day, and 1-2 times the second day.

Tactile stimulation (rubbing the skin) can also help.  Tactile stimulation can control pain by stimulating large nerve endings in the skin that can help block pain sensations in the brain (Maffetone, 2010).  Avoid doing hot treatments alone if there is inflammation present.  You can also fight inflammation with ingesting turmeric and topically applying herbal salves containing arnica, menthol, camphor, yarrow, calendula, cottonwood oil, and willow oil, to name a few.


One thing I did not touch on in this piece is diet and nutrition, all-important factors to every person’s life whether you run or not.  Everyone has things that work best for them, and getting into nutrition and diet is so different for everyone that I’m not going to get into it here.  I do encourage everyone to take diet seriously, as it is the best prevention for injury, disease, and pain.  There are lots of different schools of thought out there on this subject so find out what works best for you!  If you are truly trying to honor your body you will find the right path.

As runners, we are subject to inflammation and fight it constantly.  Doing things like taking a bunch of  ibuprofen and eating highly processed, refined, packaged foods and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol isn’t going to do you any favors.  I highly recommend reading up on balancing fats in your diet, however you choose to do it, as fat balancing manages pain, improves brain function, and keeps your cells and your body working well (Maffetone, 2010).  Taking care of yourself will only help you and your running in the “long run” (see what I did there?).

Whatever you do to recover, make it a habit.  Think of running as a lifelong endeavor and focus on your health over being fit enough to do a run.  You might be physically fit enough to do something impressive, but if at the end of the endeavor you’re a total mess, maybe you should rethink your strategy and try to do it again in a way that is easier and more respectful to your body.  Who wants to spend their season injured from not recovering properly?  I have listed some recommended reading after this article, so it is available to you if you would like to follow up on any of the information I have presented to you here.  And if anyone has reading they would recommend to me, please drop it in the comments section!

Happy trails, and happy recovery, to all of us.



Maffetone, 2010. The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing. Skyhorse Publishing, New York, NY.

Dreyer, 2004. Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running. Fireside: New York, NY.

Crowther et. al., 2017. Team sport athletes’ perceptions and use of recovery strategies: a mixed-methods survey study. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. doi:  10.1186/s13102-017-0071-3.

Levleva and Orlick, 1991.  Mental Links to Enhanced Healing: An Exploratory Study.  The Sport Psychologist.  Doi: https://doi.org/10.1123/tsp.5.1.25

Maughan, Leiper and Shirreffs, 1997.  Factors Influencing the Restoration of Fluid and Electrolyte Balance After Exercise in the Heat.  Br J Sports Med.  mcbi.nlm.nih.gov

Watanabe, 2013. Beneficial Biological Effects of Miso with Reference to Radiation Injury, Cancer and Hypertension. J Toxicol Pathol. Doi: 10.1293/tox.26.91

Miller, 2014. Electrolyte and Plasma Responses After Pickle Juice, Mustard, and Deionized Water Ingestion in Dehydrated Humans. J Athl Train. Doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-49.2.23

Guo et. al., 2017. Massage Alleviates Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness after Strenuous Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Physiol. Doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00747

Kennedy, Patil, and Trilk, 2018. Recover quicker, train harder, and increase flexibility: massage therapy for elite paracyclists, a mixed-methods study. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. Doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2017-000319


Recommended Reading:

Dreyer, 2004. Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running. Fireside: New York, NY.

Maffetone, 2010. The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing. Skyhorse Publishing, New York, NY.

Gundry, 2017.  The Plant Paradox.  Harper Wave Publishing.

Lee et. al., 2017. Biomarkers in Sports and Exercise: Tracking Health, Performance, and Recovery in Athletes. J Strength Cond Res. Doi:  10.1519/JSC.0000000000002122

Clark and Mach, 2016. Exercise-induced stress behavior, gut-microbiota-brain axis and diet: a systematic review for athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. Doi: 10.1186/s12970-016-0155-6

Fokkema et. al., 2017. Preventing running-related injuries using evidence-based online advice: the design of a randomised-controlled trial. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. Doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2017-000265

Khowailed et. al., 2015. Six Weeks Habituation of Simulated Barefoot Running Induces Neuromuscular Adaptations and Changes in Foot Strike Patterns in Female Runners. Med Sci Monit. Doi: 10.12659/MSM.893518

Assumpção et. al., 2013. Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage and Running Economy in Humans. ScientificWorldJournal. Doi: 10.1155/2013/189149