Coach Mario: Take 20 (Minutes) After a Run

Take time to recover, repair and reflect after you run

It happens all the time: We finish up a run or workout and rush straight to the car, head into the house and jump right in the shower, or worse, pull out our phones and start scrolling through our social media feeds to see what we missed while we were out running. In this mad dash to get on with our day, we often miss key fueling opportunities, skip the all-important maintenance and self-care, and neglect to properly reflect on our workout.

The solution? Take 20 (minutes, that is) after your run and perform a post-workout routine that will set you up for success in your next workout—and beyond. I got this idea from Brooks Beasts coach Danny Mackey, who told me earlier this year that he makes it a point not to look at his phone for 20 minutes after he watches his team work out so that he can have some uninterrupted time to think about how it went, identify key takeaways and jot down a few notes for the next day.

You can do the same after your own workouts to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your runs, recovering well and putting yourself on a path to continued improvement. Here are some suggestions on how to break down your post-workout routine.

The First 5 Minutes: Nail Your Nutrition

This step doesn’t have to be complicated or overly time-consuming. Take 5 minutes after your run (or plan ahead!) and ready yourself a simple snack to consume within the first half an hour or so of finishing up. It can be a recovery smoothie, water and an energy bar, a pre-made sandwich, or whatever floats your boat. The main goal here is to kickstart the recovery and repair process as soon as possible after completing your workout with a couple hundred high-quality calories. Eat and drink your snack while completing the next two steps (more on those in a bit) in this 20-minute post-run wrap-up session.

The Middle 10 Minutes: Make Time For Maintenance

All too often, runners wait until they’re injured—or on the brink of injury—to make icing, stretching and mobilizing a part of their routine. And then, once they’re past said injury and running relatively pain-free again, they usually stop doing these things until the next flare-up. Prevent this vicious cycle by taking as little as 10 minutes after every run to do one (or two, or three) of the following things: 1) Icing a sore or inflamed area; 2) Using a massage stick, foam roller or therapy ball to get into your tight spots and promote blood flow; 3) Perform body weight squats, lunges, hip rotations and other mobility exercises to reduce soreness and injury risk.

The Last 5 Minutes: Reflect On How It Went

How did your run or workout go? How did you feel? What did you do well? Where can you improve? These are just a few of the myriad questions you should ask yourself and reflect upon for at least a couple minutes after you finish running. Better yet, write the answers to these questions down in your training log to have a record of these reflections, which will help keep you honest, accountable and motivated. Compare notes from day to day, or workout to workout, so that you can recognize improvements, make adjustments and track progress. Oftentimes it can be easy to finish up a run or workout without giving it any thought to how it went and how you felt, but spending just a short amount of time afterward to reflect upon these things can go a long way to making your training more purposeful and productive.

Mario Fraioli
Mario Fraioli is a Bay Area-based running coach who works with a number of Olympic Trials-level marathoners and internationally ranked ultrarunners. He also writes and publishes The Morning Shakeout, a weekly email newsletter that covers running and other topics that interest him. Follow his work at @mariofraioli and themorningshakeout.com