If you’re anything like me the post run cooldown is dashing in to the house, grabbing my green smoothie, hoping to swallow some before hoping in to the shower and then bounding out of the shower trying to dry my hair while still sweating.
It’s a real treat.
Of course then I started working from home and just skipped the whole shower thing to go straight to my computer and clack away at the keyboard for a few hours before realizing “I’m disgusting”. But the cats have never once complained.
However, a few years ago I started to wonder if I was shortchanging my runs by ignoring that post workout cooldown period? I mean I always walk for a few minutes when I stop running, but that’s about it. What do we need to be doing and will it make us better runners?
Studies have disproved the theory that it helps prevent delayed onset muscle soreness, so can we just blow right by it and be all good? Maybe not.
Walking to Lower Heart Rate is Priority 1
Turns out I intuitively knew this part was a good idea. If you go from your run, immediately to a dead stop and then on to your chores, you are missing out on the benefits of that cooldown walk.
- The blood which was pumping so hard can quickly pool in your feet which might be why sometimes you start to feel light headed or nauseous. Keep moving for a bit.
- Your HR needs a minute to come down as well and all that bustling about isn’t quit getting you there. You want to tell your nervous system that it can now relax and start repairing.
Once again this is me telling runners everywhere to stop thinking of walk as a four-letter word. I mean it is, but dang it you know what I mean. Checkout this post on how that extra time on your feet translates to better running!!
Maintaining Flexibility is Massively Important
While researching things that runners over 40, ok really they were mostly 70+ did to keep going strong when most would say they should be home knitting, it turns out flexibility was HUGE.
After every workout, they spent some time stretching and most swore by it for helping them to continue going injury free for so many years. This makes sense because as we age we do lose flexibility and even prior to that we spend so much time in sedentary positions that our muscles become tight, which impacts our entire run.
Plus, tell me you haven’t had the experience of finishing a run and then hopping in your car to drive home. You start to get out of the car and feel like you’ve aged 30 years during the drive! That’s the lack of stretching once you finished.
Mental Benefits of Staying in the Moment
Possibly one of the biggest reasons to slow your roll (no foam rolling post run BTW!!) is simply to take a few more minutes to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. You need that connection between your hard work and the feeling to help you keep showing up day after day.
This could be part of why people enjoy group runs so much. After finishing there is the immediate reward of laughter, connection and slowing down. For us solo runners, maybe that’s why we like talking about our workouts on social media so much!
Post Run Stretches to Include
All right, I’m now convinced I need to do a little something post run to keep me running for years to come, but what does that look like?
Personally, I recommend walking for 7-10 minutes. That allows your HR and body temperature to start dropping, gives you a few minutes to reflect on the run and work up your super fantastic Instagram caption.
After that if you have a few minutes pick out 2-3 stretches and get on it. But do plan to spend some time later in the day doing a little more stretching on especially tight areas and then go on about your day. Now is the time where you can do those static stretches which are forbidden prior to a run.
At this point, studies show you need to hold the stretch for up to 1 minute minimum to get the maximum impact! So that’s why I graciously said to just pick a couple to do each day because I know you won’t spend 10 minutes here.
The reason static stretches are beneficial at this point is because it helps the muscle to release the tension created during the run and continue to improve circulation. That circulation is what’s carrying all the nutrient rich blood to your muscles to jump start the repair process.
Plus, we know that tight muscles cause things to pull out of alignment and then our form gets all wonky and then we have pain and then well we aren’t running. So…ya…just stretch for a minute will ya?
A few post run stretches to consider:
- Calf stretch
- Hip flexor stretch
- Forward fold with legs crossed (to hit the IT band)
- Cobbler’s pose (seated with feet together and knees out)
Conclusion on the Cooldown?
Is it the end of the world if you don’t cooldown? Only if you get dizzy, pass out and your cats eat you. But that’s just a personal fear of mine, so for the most part no.
However, just because it isn’t horrible, clearly doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. You’re an athlete in training whether for a race or life and so you might as well take it seriously enough to get the most out of your body.
Why keep trying to improve if you aren’t willing to do a few little things that take 10 minutes? Seems like a no brainer win win situation to me.
How often do you walk or stretch after a run?
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