If you’re a runner in search of the best way to wind down after your runs, you’ve landed in the right spot. The cool-down phase marks the conclusion of your run, and it’s a crucial element often underrated in a running routine.
During the cool down, your heart rate gradually decreases, and blood flow redistributes, particularly to essential organs, such as the brain. This is why emphasizing a proper cool-down is so critical immediately after a run.
To add to that, it should go hand in hand with a stretching routine.
In this post, we’ll explore the various benefits of cool-downs and provide practical guidelines to help you make the most of this essential aspect of your running routine. So, are you ready to learn more?
Let’s dive in.
Cool-Downs and Recovery Rate—Reality or Myth?
But is there any evidence to support this? Should you invest any of your precious time in a cool down? Does the cool-down help reduce post-workout muscle soreness?
Well, here is the simple answer.
Recent research has shown that this is not the case.
In fact, study has found no concrete evidence that (traditional) cool-down methods can help prevent muscle soreness after exercise.
Don’t get me wrong.
This does not mean that the cool-down is a complete waste of your time.
As we are going to see, the cool-down has its own benefits.
And You should never toss it to the side.
Nonetheless, you MUST and SHOULD cool down after a run.
And here is why.
Cool Down Benefits
The main aim of a cool-down is to bring your body back to a resting state, or near the resting level for breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and other factors.
In fact, in some individuals (especially those who are extremely out of shape or have cardiovascular issues), stopping on the spot can lead to extreme dizziness, even a loss of consciousness.
This brings me to the main benefit that cooldowns have to offer: preventing blood pooling.
So what is it?
And how does it affect you?
Additional resource – Calf pulls in runners
Increase Flexibility & Mobility
You’ve probably heard a zillion times that stretching is the magic potion that prevents injuries, right? Well, here’s the scoop – studies haven’t always been on the same page about that. Some say yes, some say no, and some just shrug their shoulders.
But hey, don’t chuck your stretching routine out the window just yet! Stretching still has its perks, and I’ll tell you why.
First off, stretching is like a mini spa day for your muscles. It’s that moment when your muscles breathe a sigh of relief after all that hard work. Tension? Gone. Flexibility? Increased. It’s like a little treat for your body.
Plus, it’s a bit like yoga for runners, helping you stay flexible and nimble. Think of it as your secret weapon against the dreaded stiffness that can creep in after a workout.
Now, even though the studies might not be on stretching’s side when it comes to injury prevention, think of it as insurance.
The Exact Cool Down Breakdown
Proper cool-down consists of the following two elements:
The Jogging to Walking Portion
Now, let’s dive into the art of the cool-down – your victory lap after a solid workout!
Here’s the deal: during your cool-down, you’re not coming to a screeching halt. Nope, think of it as a gentle transition, like easing off the expressway onto a quiet side street.
So, picture this: you’ve just crushed your workout, and now it’s time to downshift from turbo speed to a more leisurely pace.
The first leg of your cool-down journey? A smooth, low-intensity jog – you’re not sprinting anymore, just cruising. It’s like your car going from a Ferrari to a comfy sedan.
After a bit of that easy jogging, it’s time to slow things down even further. You transition to a leisurely walk, like a relaxed stroll through the park on a sunny day.
Why do this, you ask? Well, it helps your body cool down gradually, like letting your engine cool off after a long drive. Plus, it gives your heart and lungs a chance to catch their breath.
And here’s a bonus: this gentle cool-down helps move away those waste products your muscles have been working hard to produce.
The Stretching Portion
Now that you’ve gracefully cruised into your cool-down, it’s time to add the final touch to your workout masterpiece – stretching!
Here’s the lowdown: stretching isn’t just a fancy add-on; it’s the grand finale, the cherry on top, and it can do wonders for your body when done right.
You see, right after your run, your muscles are in prime-time warmth mode. They’re like a rubber band fresh out of the sun – super pliable and stretchy. This is when your muscles are most willing to embrace those lovely stretches.
Stretching at this stage helps improve your flexibility, making you as bendy as a yogi while also reducing the risk of muscle tears and injuries. It’s like giving your muscles a little spa treatment after their hard work.
So, how do you stretch like a pro? It’s easier than you might think!
- Step 1: If you’re new to stretching, start with some basic static stretches. Think of it as your body’s way of saying, “Hey, thanks for the awesome run!”
- Step 2: Incorporate stretching into your routine. It should feel as natural as warming up before your run. Stretching isn’t just a one-time thing; it’s a regular part of the workout show.
- Step 3: Aim for a 10 to 15-minute stretching session, hitting all those key muscle groups. It’s like giving each muscle its own VIP experience.
Stretching is key, but let’s do it right, shall we?
Here are some tips for stretching like a pro and enjoying every moment of it!
- Slow and Steady: Picture yourself as a graceful ballerina – stretch your muscles slowly, with purpose, and oh-so-gently. Hold each stretch for a serene 20 to 30 seconds, then switch sides like a pro dancer.
- Reach for the Stars: Stretch each muscle to its glorious maximum range of motion. But remember, there’s a limit to everything – don’t overdo it. Pushing too hard is like trying to fit one more suitcase in an already full trunk – it won’t end well.
- Comfort Is Key: When you stretch, aim for that sweet spot of mild discomfort, not pain. Pain is not your stretching buddy; it’s like inviting the Grinch to your holiday party. So, be kind to your muscles.
- Breathe: Don’t forget to breathe! Inhale the good vibes, exhale the tension. Your breath is your stretching partner, helping you release any tightness. Breathing is the secret sauce to stretching success.
- Warm It Up: Never, ever stretch a cold muscle. It’s like trying to bend a frozen popsicle stick – not a great idea. Warm-up with a light jog or some gentle movements before diving into your stretches. Your muscles will thank you.
What to Stretch During The Cool-Down?
Stretching is like giving your muscles a warm, loving hug after a run.
But, let’s make sure you’re hugging all the right muscles.
Here’s your guide on what to stretch:
- Hamstrings – The Back of the Thighs: These are the muscles that run down the back of your thighs. Keeping them flexible is essential to avoid lower back pain, knee issues, and overuse injuries. So, show them some love!
- Quadriceps – The Front of the Thighs: Your quadriceps are the muscles at the front of your thighs. They’ve been working hard, so make sure to stretch them out. It’s like thanking your thighs for their stellar performance.
- Iliotibial Band (IT Band) – The Side of the Leg: The IT band is a tough customer. It runs from your hip to your knee along the outside of your leg. Stretching this area can help prevent IT band syndrome and keep your legs happy.
- Hip Muscles – The Hips Don’t Lie: The muscles around your hips deserve some TLC too. This includes the glutes, lateral rotators, adductors, and iliopsoas. A happy hip region equals a happy runner!
- Calves – Don’t Forget Those Calves: Your calf muscles have been working hard, propelling you forward with every stride. Stretching them can help maintain stride efficiency and keep cramps and injuries at bay.
Here are the 5 Stretches you Nee:
The Standing Hamstring Stretching
The Laying Hamstring Stretching
The Quad Stretch
The Hip Opener Stretch