Whether you’re training for your first marathon or tackling a bucket-list ultra, the last thing you want after knocking out a long run is a lengthy to-do list of recovery steps. But what you do post-run can be just as important as the miles you put in. A solid routine will help your body regenerate damaged muscle fibers and prepare you for your next workout—both key ingredients in a successful running plan. Here, a step-by-step strategy for the right way to recover from your weekly long run.

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Immediately After

Your first post-run order of business should be to refuel and rehydrate. Sports drinks, protein smoothies, or chocolate milk are all quick, convenient choices to replenish your body’s depleted glycogen levels, electrolytes, sodium, and fluids, says Manhattan-based R.D. Scott Keatley, who’s also a USATF Level I Certified track and field coach and a runner.

If you’re going to have sugar, this is the time to have it.

"If you’re going to have sugar, this is the time to have it," Wheatley says, noting that after just an hour running, your body’s glycogen stores already begin to deplete. Aim to refuel as soon as possible after you finish, and no later than within 30 minutes.

Another important to-do early on: Shucking off that sweaty gear, stat. Warm, dry clothes help circulation by moving blood and nutrients through your body quicker, aiding recovery.

Finally, don’t forgo stretching. As few as 5 to 10 minutes of static stretches focusing on muscle groups like the hamstrings, piriformis, hip flexors, and low back can vastly reduce post-run fatigue and improve flexibility, helping you feel loose and strong the next time you lace up your shoes. Now is also the time to break out the foam roller or handheld stick-style rollers. "This method is especially helpful for working the often tight IT band in runners as well as all the other major muscle groups of the lower body," says Tom Holland, exercise physiologist, sports nutritionist, coach, and author of The Marathon Method.

Be sure to treat yourself to a super-simple stretch that will feel heavenly for your weary feet: Sit with your legs straight out in front of you, gently pull your toes toward your face, and then push them back in the other direction.

An Hour After

You may have taken off your running shoes as soon as you walked through the door, but don’t forget about footwear altogether. Over the last decade, brands like OOFOS have emerged, specializing in footwear specifically designed for recovery—be sure to look for a pair that’s breathable, lightweight, and supportive.

Many distance runners swear by the sandal and close-toed footwear offered by OOFOS, which features excellent arch support and foam that absorbs 37 percent more shock than traditional shoes, making them a solid choice for giving your feet some TLC following tough mileage. "The foam absorbs more shock when walking than a traditional foam sandal," explains Tara Mooney, an avid marathoner and apparel buyer for West Stride, an Atlanta-based running store. "This will take stress off of your feet and back, giving your body a chance to recover."

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Now’s also the time for a hearty, healthy meal. But as tempting as a juicy burger and fries may sound, your big post-run nosh should incorporate lean protein, as well as complex carbohydrates and vitamin-restoring fruits and veggies. . If you do opt for a post-run pint, experts recommend limiting it to just one. As good as that first beer tastes, alcohol requires even more work for your body to metabolize. "You’re probably already dehydrated, and your body sees alcohol as a toxin, so instead of focusing on rebuilding stores of glycogen and vitamins, it’s focusing on removing that toxin," Keatley points out. In other words, he advises: "no all-you-can-drink brunch" after a long run.

As good as that first beer tastes, alcohol requires even more work for your body to metabolize.

Chicken breast is a staple for many endurance athletes, but Keatley also recommends seafood, which packs a protein punch as well as replenishing stores of B12 and magnesium, twokey nutrients for runners

The Evening After

One of the cheapest—and perhaps most underrated—aspects of an effective recovery routine? Getting good sleep. Indeed, falling into bed the night after a long run is downright heavenly, but while you’re zonked your body is still hard at work healing itself, repairing muscle damage and continuing to move toxins out of your body.

The Day After

Some runners swear by a shakeout run—a few easy miles at a casual pace—the day following a long run to loosen muscles and help release toxin buildup. Some experts also recommend a complementary form of cross training. "Biking, swimming, and yoga can increase blood flow, helping decrease feelings of soreness, prevent muscles from tightening, and speed up the recovery process," Holland says.

Food-wise, you should also be "back to general healthy eating," Keatley notes. "Make about half your plate fruits and veggies, and the other half lean protein."

Finally, don’t forget about creating a long-term recovery plan to incorporate days (and maybe even weeks) off of running altogether. It’s a critical component of maximizing performance—and making your hard work really pay off.