How to Get Fresh Legs

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I was too lazy to run yesterday – although I did go for a walk – and while I was tempted to make up my run today, I knew it would be better if I held off.


Why?  Well, I’m running two back-to-back sprint triathlons this weekend, and I need fresh legs!




Fresh legs are a great feeling.  After a few days off, it’s amazing how much faster I run.  My lower body doesn’t feel heavy or slow to respond.  In short – I feel like I can do ANYTHING when I have fresh legs, which is why I’d love to go into the weekend feeling great.   How I’ll feel on Sunday is another issue, of course.

IMG_5314 IMG_5315

Here’s how I get fresh legs, fast:


Rest:  First things first – REST!  Most training plans include some sort of taper period in which you drastically reduce mileage and intensity to allow your body to heal more deeply.  But the rest days immediately preceding a race are important, too.  While some people feel better – mentally and physically – if they do a very short run the day before a race, I feel best if I sit on my butt all day long and engage in minimal activity.  So rest.  Really and truly rest.  Don’t go on a long walk the day before your race; don’t spend the entire evening before the event dancing in high heels at a nightclub.  REST!


Massage:  Pre-race massage is a tricky thing.  You don’t want to go too deep or too hard right before the race, as you’ll feel sore and dragged down, not fresh.  However, a light, gentle massage can help flush out your muscles and increase blood flow to your legs.  If you’re going to get a pre-race massage, do it four or five days before and keep it light and gentle. 




Foam Rolling:  Foam rollers are basically super cheap and easy self-massagers.  I have this foam roller and love it.  Foam rolling can help sort out any knots and increase blood flow, but just like a regular massage – don’t go too deep and heavy.  Here’s more tips on how to use a foam roller.


Sleep:  It’s hard to sleep the night before a race, but if it makes you feel better, runner’s lore says the few days before the race – not the night before – are the most important.  So get in bed early and sleep late for an entire week!  Sleep helps your body recover, after all.


Ice Baths:  Ice baths are painful, but evidence suggests they help constrict blood vessels, flush lactic acid, and reduce swelling. Ice baths or icing in general is most effective immediately following the workout, so I try to ice my legs after my last workout before the race.   Or you could take a cue from Megan and just fill your bathtub with ice cubes…

Proper Fueling:  Underfueling (or poor fueling) can led to injuries and puts a ton of stress of your body, which is the last thing you need right before a race.  Stay focused on eating wholesome, natural foods, including lots of fruits and veggies.  Don’t throw out your dietary goals just because you’re in rest mode.  Here’s how I fuel for the long haul.


Hydrate:  Drink water!  Hydration for the race occurs in the week preceding the event, not just the day of the race.  I am to drink at least half my body weight in ounces each day. 


Compression Socks: And last, but not least, compression socks.  Sure, they look seriously dorky but they really do help reduce swelling in your lower legs.  I have a pair of Recovery Socks and would highly recommend them – they last FOREVER. 

How do you get fresh legs?  How do you maximize your taper?  Everyone always talks about how they ‘hate’ the taper but man – I LOVE IT.  Lots of couch time.



  • Marissa C September 22, 2011, 1:48 pm

    Hmmm…I wonder if those compression socks would work for pregnancy edema? I have troll feet/ankles.

    • Caitlin September 22, 2011, 1:56 pm

      I bet they would!

  • Angela @ MyPinkyToes September 22, 2011, 1:59 pm

    I am a big fan of taper time, too! When I tapered for my first marathon I was afraid I’d be losing all my endurance, but it’s crazy how the body remembers! I loved being able to relax a little bit!
    I feel like lots of stretching helps with having fresh legs…something I’m sure I didn’t do enough of!

  • Amanda September 22, 2011, 2:05 pm

    Oh my god, Megan’s video was hilarious! Love healthy lifestyle blogs so much because now I’m gearing up to go out for a lovely fall run! Btw, I’m working on chi running right now (just checked out the book). Have you ever tried it/heard of it??

    Have a good one!

    • CaitlinHTP September 22, 2011, 8:05 pm

      I have! i am trying to get into a workshop but my dates keep conflicting. wah!

  • lauren September 22, 2011, 2:07 pm

    I haven’t experienced a “real” taper first hand. When I did my half in May, I had my last long run a week beforehand. But, I did take advantage of that last week to go on a couple short runs, walk, and stretch. I think a taper is great for distance, by time you reach that point you are about as trained as you are going to get and rest is more important.

  • Victoria (District Chocoholic) September 22, 2011, 2:09 pm

    Swimming/light pool running can help clear out lingering lactic acid. Awesome stuff.

  • Keri September 22, 2011, 2:10 pm

    I am hoping to do my first tri next spring, and this post is inspiring! Also loved Megan’s video–too funny! And last, this is off topic, but I meant to share this a while ago since you love dystopias: A short story I had my AP Lit class read–another dystopia by Ursula K Leguin. She’s awesome!

    • CaitlinHTP September 22, 2011, 8:04 pm

      Thanks for passing that along!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat September 22, 2011, 2:11 pm

    Ooh I totally agree with all of these (except the compression socks, only because I’ve never tried them). But speaking from my own experience, sleep and rest are key. Even after a week of regular workouts, and taking one rest day on the weekend, it’s amazing how fresh my legs feel on Monday morning!

  • Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table September 22, 2011, 2:12 pm

    I need this today! My legs are all wobbly and they need to recover for a run. 🙂

    In addition to foam rolling, I ice my knees directly (non-bath). They are my “problem” area and always require special attention for recovery.

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) September 22, 2011, 2:12 pm

    I don’t run, but I think those compression socks would feel like heaven!

  • Ellie@fitforthesoul September 22, 2011, 2:14 pm

    haha Megan’s so cute!! And love the dramatic music…. : PPP

    But it really looks painful, ouch!

  • Kristina September 22, 2011, 2:16 pm

    Definitely agree with the ‘rest’ part, but I also like the idea of some fun but NOT intense workouts. For both of the tris that I’ve done, I got my bike tuned before hand and I wanted to ride it before race day. So, it was GREAT to take it out the day before the race for a really easy 12 mile ride or so. It helped with the mental part – knowing what my bike would feel like after the tune-up. Physically, it was nice to have a fun and easy ride. I got to move my legs without “working” them.

  • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday September 22, 2011, 2:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing.
    I actually do none of those things except sleep and hydrate, but I don`t run races I just run for fun.
    I do like to run when my legs are sore from weightlifting though because I find it really loosens them up.

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen September 22, 2011, 2:18 pm

    I’m going to need to start trying ice baths. I can’t believe I’ve avoided them this long but I’m so sore after strength training it’s making it hard to get my runs in even though they are 2 days later and I really want to stick to my training plan that includes BOTH.

  • Sonia (the Mexigarian) September 22, 2011, 2:18 pm

    bahahahahahahaha!!! that video is hilarious. the music makes it completely.

    things is, what would be considered a long run? longest I’ve ever done was about 6.5, just above my one and only 10k thus far. (haven’t ran in weeks!) i generally ice after each run, but when does it get to the point of ice baths??

    loving those compression socks. thanks for all the tips 🙂

    • CaitlinHTP September 22, 2011, 8:02 pm

      I would start icing after 7 or 8 miles. A long run is relative, though! A 7 miler used to seem short to me but now seems sooooooooo long.

  • Casey @ Pocket Full of Sunshine September 22, 2011, 2:19 pm

    The only thing that I’ve tried that gets me fresh legs is two to days off of any running/strength training (especially strength training!). Strength training just kills my legs for days at a time!

  • Amanda @ The Beauty Notebooks September 22, 2011, 2:25 pm

    Caitlin, I love the new box categories on the side! No idea how long they’ve been there — sometimes I can be oblivious to those kinds of things — but they look great 🙂

    • CaitlinHTP September 22, 2011, 8:01 pm

      Thanks friend! i just added them.

  • Lauren September 22, 2011, 2:30 pm

    LOVE the taper…I’m currently in one right now and I have no desire to go out and run more than I’m supposed to :). I had my first ice bath a couple weeks ago after running 18 miles and boy oh boy did it make a HUGE difference in recovery time. My PT friend says to not spend more than 10 minutes in the ice and make sure you get up and walk around right after to get the blood flowing again.

  • TheHungeredOne@MovingandMunching September 22, 2011, 2:32 pm

    ugh i just posted about how my legs are never fresh – rest or no rest. 😐 I need some compression wear and I’m going to ice bathe more lol… ugh… not looking forward to that. I wish I could just get massages whenever!

  • Kelly September 22, 2011, 2:42 pm

    Wow. I read this as “how to get fresh EGGS”…I thought it was another fertility/baby making post!!! My immediate thought as, “You can do that?” (get fresh eggs) Good heavens!

    • CaitlinHTP September 22, 2011, 8:00 pm

      Hahah no more baby posts for a while, I promise.

  • katie @ KatieDid September 22, 2011, 3:03 pm

    I eat tons of sweet potatoes and eggs. Works like a charm leading up to a race for me!

  • Taylor @ Crumbs Don't Count September 22, 2011, 3:20 pm

    I like the MASSAGE method the best!! I love them..and if you get them at a “school” where the students are training to get in their hours it is super cheap (like $25 for an hour) and they are JUST as good as the spas!

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife September 22, 2011, 3:21 pm

    I have never tried out compressions socks, but I LOVE the foam roller. Hurts SO good 🙂

  • Jessica @ Jess Go Bananas September 22, 2011, 3:23 pm

    How can someone hate the taper?! I love me my taper time! hahah 🙂

  • Holly @ The Runny Egg September 22, 2011, 3:28 pm

    I love tapering — and yes, foam rolling, ice baths and compression socks are my go-to choices. I do like to soak in the jacuzzi tub now and then too. Not sure if it helps or not, but it feels good!

  • Jolene (Homespun Heritage) September 22, 2011, 3:33 pm

    At first glance I read the title as “How to Get Fish Legs”….I thought, “Fish have legs?” HA!

    ~Great post though, on getting *fresh* legs!~

    • CaitlinHTP September 22, 2011, 8:00 pm

      fish legs 🙂 heheh

  • alli September 22, 2011, 3:57 pm

    yoga! it does a body good 🙂

  • kathleen @ the daily crumb September 22, 2011, 4:07 pm

    i actually find the a short run the day before a race helps my legs feel fresh. nothing crazy, i’m talking 1 – 2 miles, but getting up and moving (since i generally sit at a desk all day otherwise) helps get the blood flowin!

  • Army Amy* September 22, 2011, 4:13 pm

    Skipping weight lifting helps, too. I try to do some strength training (squats, calf raises, free weights) during training, but I decrease or cut it out completely before a long run/race.*

  • Amber P September 22, 2011, 4:15 pm

    I try to go to Bikram Yoga a day or two before a race and then take it easy the day before. I went to Bikram the day before I ran in the Ragnar relay and felt GREAT the next day. It stretches and loosens everything up without overdoing it.

  • Emily September 22, 2011, 4:23 pm

    Are the compression socks for during or after the race? Immediately after, or can you be casual about it, like a couple of hours after?

    • CaitlinHTP September 22, 2011, 7:52 pm

      Before, during, or after!

  • Heather @ Better With Veggies September 22, 2011, 4:40 pm

    Great tips on fresh legs (and really recovery in general)! I absolutely love ice baths and compression socks – both definitely work for me. My tip for ice baths is to get in before the water level gets to high – it doesn’t seem as cold that way. I also have a hot beverage to sip on, helps a lot!

  • Hillary September 22, 2011, 4:54 pm

    I second the rest suggestion. Resting is always KEY for me before a big run—I feel like a different person!

  • Tessa @ Amazing Asset September 22, 2011, 5:50 pm

    I am so glad you posted this today… I am running a Half on Saturday and my legs feel like total poo today 🙁 I am planning on spending the next two days using as little energy as possible hahaa
    Where did you buy your compression socks?

    • CaitlinHTP September 22, 2011, 7:51 pm

      There’s a link in the post!

  • Amanda @ AmandaRunsNY September 22, 2011, 5:58 pm

    Awesome advice. I think I’m going to buy some compression socks tonight!

  • Dee September 22, 2011, 6:31 pm

    Loving the term “fresh legs”, and totally know what you mean!

  • MegaNerd September 22, 2011, 6:35 pm

    Bawhahaa I still love that video just as much every time. 🙂

  • Christine @ BookishlyB September 22, 2011, 6:44 pm

    Stupid question that for some reason I think you may know the answer to: what constitutes “knots” in our backs or muscles? Like on a biological, anatomical level? Just wondering because I say the word all the time and don’t really understand what it means 🙂

  • mi-an d. September 22, 2011, 6:53 pm

    I had such a lazy day yesterday too…i couldn’t run at all so T and i walked instead. think i already told you that. also, i keep getting blister on my left food (i have a bunion and that tends to get more callus hence more blister) ugh. do you recommend any running socks that may lessen this problem i have? i also wear wide shoes for this reason.

  • Brooke @ Tales of a Bride-To-Be September 22, 2011, 7:23 pm

    Great post! I use a rolling pin instead of a foam roller, but I generally just sit on the couch for a couple of days and do nothing. It helps a ton! Also I try to walk out a knot by gently rubbing the area and walk a bit and repeat. It feels amazing! Right now I have severe knots in the calves and can barely move, so fresh legs are in my future because zero running will be taking place in my future!

  • erin c September 22, 2011, 8:03 pm

    Do you know any tricks for avoiding shin splints? My husband wants to run (had his shoes fit at fit niche so he should be good there) but still suffers ..he doesn’t get very far in his training and he would like to…(he has major over pronation). Thanks!

  • Sara @ RunnerWife September 22, 2011, 8:25 pm

    I LOVE compression socks! They are the greatest thing ever – they look crazy, but they really work I 100% believe in them!

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin September 22, 2011, 8:42 pm

    Thanks for these tips! I feel like my legs have been constantly sore lately… I’ve just been trying to stretch them out, but it hasn’t done much to help. 😛

  • Khushboo September 23, 2011, 1:39 am

    I was just thinking about fresh legs after my run this morning! I took a rest day off yesterday and was amazed at how ‘easy’ my run seemed too, especially after a sluggish run on Wednesday! Rest days=quality workouts–> fact!

  • miss posy September 23, 2011, 2:36 am

    I can’t believe you’re doing two triathlons back to back! I’m sore for a week after one sprint tri!

    Good luck – and have fun!

  • SeekingAmy September 23, 2011, 9:48 am

    That ice bath made me cringe just looking at it!

  • Carolina John September 23, 2011, 9:57 am

    Those pics look so familiar…. ha!

    I get fresh legs by resting. Taper time is very beneficial if you’ve got a big race coming up. Ironman has a two week taper! It’s nuts.

    Good luck on your sprints this weekend! Can’t wait to see how you do.

  • Erin September 24, 2011, 6:13 pm

    I just added compression socks to my Christmas list 🙂 Oh, and I completely agree about needing to rest sometimes – I only ran once this week and took off today feeling super rested and really good!! 10K here I come!

  • Sophie @ threetimesf September 25, 2011, 12:08 pm

    Haha, Megan’s ice bath video always makes me chuckle! I hope today’s tri went well 🙂

  • Cathy Smith January 28, 2015, 3:35 pm

    Thanks for the information. You’re quite the trooper, it looks like! I’ve been running races a lot lately, so my legs have been hating me! I’ve heard that there are quite a few health benefits to getting a massage after a workout, so I think I’ll follow your tip. Hopefully it’ll even improve my endurance!

  • Sarah Mccaver September 17, 2015, 7:35 pm

    Hi I just did a workout in gym class yesterday and my legs still hurt when I go up the stairs and down and when sit down and sit up. Would putting a ice pack make my legs recover faster? And massaging my legs? Please respond

  • Debbie November 15, 2015, 9:11 pm

    Thank you so much this was so helpful and I wonder if like sleeping would help with pregnancy too?!!

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