Why and How to Cool Down

While a nap may seem more inviting than a cool down after a tough session, your post-workout routine is more important than you may think.

Listen in as Coach Hayley explains why cooling down is so vital and how to do it for the best results.

Audio Transcript

Hayley: Hey Runners Connect fans. Today, we have a great question from Aiden.

Aiden: What’s the purpose of cooling down and what’s the best cool down routine for runners?

Hayley: The purpose of a cool down is to bring the body back to its resting state as efficiently as possible, and in a way that assists in recovery for the next run.

A cool down slows the heart rate gradually so that your body has time to stretch, and the blood pressure has time to drop.

This prevents the pooling of blood in the extremities.

However, it also keeps the heart rate sufficiently elevated to send fresh blood to the muscles, with proteins and white blood cells that are needed to start healing any micro damage in the muscles.

The blood also clears out any metabolic waste and junk that’s accumulated during the exercise.

If you don’t bring your heart rate down gradually, and stop abruptly, especially after running hard, blood can pool in the legs. This isn’t great for recovery, it can also cause dizziness.

The slow intensive exercise is a really important factor in the cool down, but it shouldn’t be the only factor.

It’s also a good idea to include some form of mobility work – stretching helps to relax and restore length to the muscles, decreasing [inaudible 00:02:52] run tightness.

The main type of cool down that most people refer to, when they talk about a cool down is the routine that’s performed after a harder workout, like intervals or a tempo run.

The best way to cool down after a hard effort like this is to begin with at least 10 – 15 minutes of easy jogging.

The pace of this jogging isn’t important; it should be as easy as you feel you need to go to recover, and bring the heart rate down, and you should never try and hit a certain pace on the cool down.

It should progress towards the end of your cool down jog. You should slow the pace even further, until you finish with a brisk walk before stopping.

Avoid skimping on this slow, intensive part of cool down.

Even if it means cutting your workout a little short, it’s really important for recovery and [inaudible 00:03:33] function. After your jog, I’d also include 10 – 15 minutes of stretching or mobility work.

Avoid stretching too aggressively as your muscles will be tight and shortened after the workout.

Gently stretch all the major muscle groups: quads, calfs, hamstrings, glutes – hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and repeat twice on each side.

This isn’t the time to reach new grounds in flexibility; you’re simply trying to return the muscles to their pre-workout length.

Cooling down after an easier pace run, or a long run is a slightly different process, but you can still employ a cool down of sorts to help your recovery process.

After a normal run like this, rather than just stopping, define up to 10 minutes of walking, and then begin 10 – 15 minutes of stretching.

After an easy run and prior to stretching is also a good idea to increase some mobility drills such as lunges. You can include some frame rolling alongside the stretching.

You might want to avoid that after a harder workout, to let the muscles have a few hours to recover and relax, but after an easy run, it’s fine.

I know it can be difficult to fit all these things in, and I promise you, it’s really important.

Of course equally as important as the cool down for recovery, is including some post-run fuel – this should contain some protein and some carbohydrate.

A bar with a banana, or some chocolate milk is perfect, and I usually take that on board, even before, or during the stretching.

I really love that question.

For those of you listening, that want to have your questions answered by one of the Runners Connect coaches, head over to runnersconnect.net/daily and click the record button to send your question over.

Finally, a word from our sponsors.

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I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. If you haven’t already, consider heading over to iTunes, or your favorite podcast directory and subscribing, or leaving your review. It’ll help us to reach more runners like you.

Have a great day and be sure to tune in next time.

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