The importance of cooling down after a run

woman, jogging, running

Much like warming up, the post-workout cool down is often neglected by runners. From a recovery perspective, reducing your pace to a light jog for 10 minutes at the end of your run is time well spent, especially after high-intensity sessions.

Cooling down after a hard run helps your body return to its pre-exercise condition. While you’re exercising, blood pumps throughout your body and performs many functions, like delivering oxygen to your muscles and dissipating heat. Demands for these functions don’t return to normal the moment you stop your watch.

A good cool down is therefore an important first step in recovering and eases your body’s transition back to baseline conditions. It increases blood flow and removes lactate and metabolic waste products from your muscles more quickly. Cooling down also reduces adrenaline levels and returns your metabolism to normal faster, and combined with warming up, it lessens muscle soreness.

How to cool down after a run

Cooling down after a workout is incredibly easy. It should be between 10-15 minutes and begins by running easy for the first five minutes. Then slow to a jog or brisk walk for the remaining time.

If you’re using a heart rate monitor, the optimal clearance of lactate and adrenaline is at around 60-75 per cent of your maximum heart rate. On the rate of perceived effort scale, that’s about 2-3. So keep it super easy!

After you’ve finished running, your muscles are still warm and will have good blood flow. This increases their ability to stretch without injury, so it’s a great time to also stretch your muscles.

Cool down summary

  • Cool down after higher-intensity sessions (intervals, hill repeats etc).
  • It isn’t necessary to cool down after easy runs.
  • A 10-15 minute cool down is sufficient. Run/jog for the first five minutes, jog/walk for the remainder.

Picture of Dan Cross

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