How To Cool Down After Running: The Fast Recovery Method

Cooling down after running is an important part of your workout – but so many runners skip it,

After all, you have things to do and places to go.

Once your heart rate goes down, shouldn’t you be okay?

The answer to that is: sort of.

While a little cool-down walk and some water might seem like a fine way to recover from a run, it’s not the best choice.

Doing a full cool down routine is the best way to heal your body after the difficulty of a run.

Let’s look at the benefits of cooling down after running using our fast recovery method!

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Why You Should Cool Down After Running

Cooling down should be an integral part of your post-run routine because it prepares your body for regular activity.

When you’re pushing yourself during a run, your body must pump blood very quickly to fuel your muscles. When you stop running, it can’t immediately stop the process.

So, when you abruptly stop running, blood can pool in your legs, and you may feel dizzy or faint.

A cool down keeps this from happening and allows your heart to begin evenly circulating blood to all of your body.

In addition to slowing your blood flow, cooling down also helps your body safely lower your heart rate and return your breathing to a regular rate.

This helps your heart understand that your run is over and can return to normal. This also helps train it for future runs.

Cooling down also helps your muscles fully relax. Your body can now begin oxygenating your muscles more efficiently, as well as eliminating waste products, like lactic acid, that were created during your run.

Cooling down after running dramatically reduces the risk of developing stiffness and adhesions that you will leave you sore and cause pain when you foam roll.

Ultimately, the result of cooling down is that your progress from your run is cemented in your body.

Think of a cool down as the save function after writing a document or playing a game.

It increases the effectiveness of your training and speeds up your recovery.

This means you’ll be ready to hit the road for your next run less sore and more energetic.

It also means you’ll be less prone to getting injured!

Related: The Best Post-Run Routine: Do These 9 Things After Every Run

How to Cool Down Properly

The general rule of thumb is to cool down for at least 5 minutes, but you can go for as long as 10 minutes.

The deciding factor is how strenuous your workout was.

This means your cool down should be proportionate to your run. If you have just run a race or completed a difficult training run, then you need to cool down for much longer than an easy run.

The best way to begin a cool down is by either slowly jogging or walking.

Depending on how your heart works, you may find that walking is the most effective way to bring down your heart rate.

Your cool down should be easy and require no effort, so adjust accordingly.

Your goal is to get your breathing and heart rate back to a normal state.

Once you’ve done this, you can begin stretching!

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How to Stretch During Your Cool Down

We talked about dynamic stretching in our article about warming up. Those types of stretches are very important to do when warming up cold muscles. However, after a run, your muscles are warm and pliable.

They can stretch easily with little effort.

Therefore, you can do static stretches to help your muscles recover after a difficult run.

You should hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and make sure to stretch both sides of your body.

It’s also a good idea to hit as many muscle groups as possible when you stretch.

Here are a few to try.

Standing Quad Stretch

Begin by standing on one leg. Bend the knee of the opposite leg and lift your foot towards your glutes. Grasp your foot with one hand and hold. You should feel the stretch all along with your quadriceps. This also gets your IT band as well!

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Standing Hamstring Stretch

Next, stretch the back of your legs by focusing on your hamstrings. You can do this by either bending down to touch your toes and with just a slight bend in your knees, or you can do the standing hamstring stretch. To do this, slightly bend one knee while stretching your opposite leg out in front of you. Now, raise the foot of the outstretched leg by lifting your toes up, but keeping your heel on the ground. Then, hinge at the waist and reach for your toes. You may also feel this in your calf!

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Standing Calf Stretch

To do this stretch, you’ll need a wall, curb, or bench. Stand close to the wall and lift one foot, placing your toes on the wall, while keeping your heel on the ground, like in the hamstring stretch. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your calf. If you are by a wall, you can place your hands on it for balance.

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Downward Facing Dog

If you enjoy doing yoga, then downward-facing dog is an excellent pose to incorporate into your cool-down routine. To get into proper position, begin by doing a tall plank. Then, lift your hips up until your head is between your arms. Your heels should be able to reach the ground. If not, just stay on your toes. You can get a dynamic stretch in by pedaling your feet to help both calves and hamstrings relax.

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What Next After Cooling Down?

Once you’ve cooled down, jump into some of our Recovery Tips!

Cooling down is an essential part of a runner’s routine.

Unfortunately, most runners neglect it because they don’t feel like they have the time, or don’t want to do extra work. However, cooling down ensures that your body correctly recovers from your run so that you will feel healthy and remain uninjured. It’s the safest way to end a run and it will help you feel better.

It’s a built-in stress reliever to get you ready to face the rest of your day!

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

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