I know you, you’ve warmed up like a pro. You’ve raced to your heart’s content and now it’s time for the cooldown and you’re thinking… ‘huh, how can I make the most out of this then?’ A solid cooldown ritual after a training run or race is just as important as your warm-up. And to be fair, they don’t have to differ much either.
The point of a cool down is to do exactly that, cool your body back down to a pre-workout state. Lowering your breathing rate, heart rate, body temperate. Gently let your muscles relax, keeping them long and strong (no knots here please) and ready for your next run.
They say the preparation for your next run starts in your current runs cool down – so making the most of the cooldown can help keep injuries at bay, get your rest and recovery part of training on a blissfully good start.
Should you choose to skip the cooldown, and abruptly stop exercising: you run the risk of blood pooling (blood hanging around in your legs a little longer than preferred) causing dizziness. Other problems are muscle tightness, muscle soreness, and a scrambling body that’s trying to calm everything instantly rather than a gentle, progressive end.
Post-run cooldowns and recovery sessions go hand-in-hand quite well, and incorporating both into your run plans can only help you reap the benefits!
Cool down after a race:
Races are where we work at our maximum, all these months of training finally come down to race day, and ill be damned to see all your efforts go out the window after a hard 5k, brutally long marathon or even a multi-day event. Heres a race day cool-down routine you can count on:
- Slow your pace – Easy effort jog or active walk for 10 minutes before slowing the pace to a slow walk – to slow your heart rate, and breathing rate and prevent blood pooling.
- Put on a jacket or extra layer to help keep you warm as you walk – your temperature will drop quite quickly, and to avoid any dizziness it’s best to pre-empt that, especially in the cooler months!
- Longer static stretches on muscle groups you’ve used – A comprehensive stretch plan will help iron out any muscle tension picked up throughout your race. Not only that, it’s a great sociable activity to discuss the aftermath of the race and ogle at your new finishers medal!
- Take on fluids and carbohydrate snacks – whilst walking around, take in sips of water or your post-run drink to rehydrate, replenish any fluid loss during your race and help regulate your temperature.
- A balanced meal should be consumed – a mixture of protein, carbohydrates, fats and continuing to rehydrate (There’s even scope for some caffeine to aid recovery too).
- Ice bathing works wonders for sore muscles, but contrast bathing works better! – Submerging your legs in iced water for up to 10 minutes, getting out and sitting at room temperature for 5 minutes, (or a warm bath, hot water bottles, electric blankets) to then re submerge into the cold water again helps your blood flow. The vasodilation and vasoconstriction of the bodies blood vessels help to pump fresh blood, aiding in reducing swelling, helping damaged muscles or areas of tension.
- Feeling ‘niggles’? They’re more prevalent after relaxing, so I would get out a yoga app, and foam roller on the evening of your race. Foam rollers are excellent at eradicating muscle tightness from your body – yes, please!
- The following day – always go out for an easy, effortless run. If that feels too much, opt for a walk but get your legs moving again. The active recovery helps to lessen muscle soreness from taking over for the next few days.
- Treat yourself to a sports massage. – Whilst lymphatic massages do well, there’s nothing quite like a sports massage. A sports massage therapist will be able to discuss your run with you, your performance, any issues you have with your muscles and joints. It’s true, sports massages are inherently more painful, but they get the job done and give your body a full reset button for you to go back out there and compete again, like a new man (or woman). After all, no pain, no gain, right?
- Either use the last half a mile to slow down and ‘start my cool down’ or if I have finished on a whole number (yes I have to keep going to round it up) I tend to walk around in circles, take on water and actively slow my breathing. Big, deep, belly breathing. I like to multitask so whilst I’m feeling my body calm down, I check my Garmin for the run stats, for the dopamine hit of her saying ‘good job!’
- Put on a jumper, take off my running shoes and Static stretch Holding stretches for specific areas for longer is the key. 30 seconds per stretch, sometimes reaching 45 seconds to a minute if I’m struggling (usually the calf’s and glutes).
- Take on a drink with carbohydrates and protein for recovery. This is usually chocolate Alpro soya milk, a perfect companion for the drive home.
- Have a hot shower where I will further stretch on areas that were causing me grief, if not, just enjoy the hot water on a cold day to de-thaw.
2-5 hours post-race:
24-48 hours post-run:
Cool down after a training run:
Cooldowns after a training run, no matter what the intensity (long Sunday 19 miler or Thursday threshold session) my runs always end the same, and touch wood, its never seen me wrong:
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