Restorative baths are a great way to relieve aching muscles and quicken recovery after a long run.
Start with the basics: Epsom salts
Epsom salt is a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate. Both minerals are readily absorbed through the skin as you soak, making Epsom salts the ideal basis for a post-run recovery bath. Magnesium reduces inflammation, soothes tired muscles, relieves cramping and improves muscle and nerve function. Sulfates aid in the absorption of nutrients, flush out toxins including lactic acid, and sedate the nervous system.
Additions: Essential oils and raw herbs
Add up to 6 drops of essential oil to 2 cups of Epsom salts and pour into a warm bath. Avoid adding essential oils directly to hot water as they can evaporate quickly, diminishing their healing benefits.
Place raw herbs in a muslin or mesh bag under the tap to infuse as the water runs. Otherwise throw them straight in the tub!
Four suggestions for post-run recovery baths to try at home
Please consult with a qualified healthcare provider if you have serious injuries, or skin aggravations that persist after a couple of days.
1. For deeply aching and tired muscles and joints
To two cups of Epsom salts add 3 drops each of eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils. Slice up some fresh ginger, throw in some cloves, star anise and cinnamon. These herbs and essential oils work together to improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and soothe aching muscles and joints.
2. For a good night’s sleep after your run
To two cups of Epsom salts add 2 drops each of lavender, geranium and sweet basil essential oils and half a cup of sweet almond oil. If you have lavender in your garden, a handful of fresh sprigs is a beautiful addition to this bath. This combination relaxes tired muscles, nourishes skin and calms the nervous system, which is commonly over-active after particularly strenuous event.
3. To combat post-marathon fatigue
Once the buzz of the event has worn off and your muscles begin to relax, it is common to experience deep fatigue after a marathon. This is a bath you might like to try once a week in the month following the event. To two cups of Epsom salts add 2 drops each of spearmint, lemon and juniper berry essential oils. If you have it on hand, add some slices of fresh ginger and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Together these essential oils and herbs invigorate tired muscles, improve nervous system function and encourage cerebral blood flow in order to lift fatigue.
4. To heal the skin
To aid in the healing of chafing, blisters or other skin irritations after a long run, try mixing your choice of essential oils into half a cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil before adding to your Epsom salt bath. You could also try calendula or jojoba oils for their soothing and healing effects on the skin. Add to your bath or apply directly to dry or chafed skin.
Don’t forget to rest and replenish
After bathing remember to take extra time to rest and replenish. A great natural and non-sugary electrolyte drink can be made by adding a teaspoon of Celtic sea salts and a squeeze of lemon juice to 300mL of room temperature water.
A good time to apply balms and liniments
Herbal liniments such as Tiger Balm, Deep Heat, Wood Lock or Zheng Gu Shui (available from Chinese herbal medicine dispensaries) can help restore tired and aching muscles and should be applied straight after bathing as pores are open and the liniment can penetrate deep into the muscle layer.