Learning how to cool down after running is important for all runners – but especially those planning to train for new PRs or long distance races. The harder or longer you run, the more important your running cooldown becomes.
Do you need to cool down after running?
It’s certainly possible to run consistently without completing a formal cooldown after each run. However, failing to cool down after running has the potential to create long term problems in training.
Every runner needs to cool down after running, but the extent of your cooldown will vary depending on the intensity, distance and consistency of your training.
Why is a running cooldown important?
Taking the time to cool down after running is important for so many reasons. When we abruptly stop running, our body has no time to transition, which can lead to a variety of issues.
Stopping suddenly after a long or hard run can cause blood to pool in the legs, leading to lightheadedness or dizziness. In addition, recovery time might take longer or become less efficient with no cooldown period.
Here are some of the biggest benefits that come from incorporating a cool down after running.
- Helps transition the body into regular activity
- Prevents blood from pooling in the legs
- Regulates blood distribution
- Balances and restores the cardiovascular system
- Encourages elimination of waste products like lactic acid
- Reduces risk of stiffness and soreness
- Promotes flexibility and mobility to help prevent injury
How should you cool down after running?
Most runners know that they need to cool down after running, but few truly understand how to properly execute a running cooldown routine.
The first step in creating an effective running cool down is to figure out what activities and exercises are most beneficial for your body in those first few moments (and hours) post-run. Here are some of the most beneficial activities to include in your running cooldown routine.
- Walking or jogging immediately post-run
- Mobility exercises
- Static stretching
- Refueling and rehydrating
- Foam rolling
Adding any or all of these activities to your running cool down can greatly benefit your body. In addition to increasing the efficiency of your physical recovery, these exercises can also help improve your fitness, prevent injury and increase long term output during training.
Cool Down After Running: Optimal Timeline
Learning how to cool down after running involves understanding when to complete each of your cooldown activities. Structuring your cooldown routine in a way that matches your body’s activity will help optimize all of the benefits.
The timeline of your cool down after a run greatly impacts its effectiveness. Completing certain activities or exercises too soon or too late after a run can potentially render them useless.
Rather than doing whatever “feels good” or is “convenient” after a run, creating a routine that you can stick to will help you stay consistent with your cool downs. Here is exactly how to cool down after running with the optimal post-run routine.
Cool down: immediately after the run
When your heart rate is still elevated, it’s important to keep moving. Slow to a very easy jog for a minute or two, and then eventually to a walk. The recovery jog or walk can last longer, even upwards or 10 minutes if you’d like, but a few minutes is all it takes to help your body adjust.
Slowing to a jog or walk before stopping completely allows your body to reset the cardiovascular system, adjust for normal activities, and prevent blood from pooling in your legs.
Cool down: 5-10 minutes after the run
After about 5 to 10 minutes, your heart rate will have decreased from its maximum and your muscles are starting to relax after activity. During the next 10 – 20 minutes, it can be beneficial to perform a few easy mobility exercises. These exercises help prevent swelling and can improve flexibility over time.
Try adding some exercises such as side-to-side shuffles, hip circles, leg swings or lunges to your routine to get maximum benefits. Perform these exercises for 5 – 15 minutes before cooling down with a shower or ice bath.
Cool down: 30 – 60 minutes after the run
By this point, your heart rate will have returned to normal and your body is nearly back to its regular, resting state. Within 30 – 60 minutes post-run you’ll want to shift your focus to refueling, hydrating and performing some static exercises.
Stretching during this time can be beneficial as the muscles are still slightly warm and more flexible. Grab a smoothie, drink or snack to refuel and continue your running cooldown with some static stretches or yoga poses. Some great options are downward dog, pigeon pose, happy baby, runner’s lunge, standing calf stretches, thread the needle or a standing quad stretch.
Cool down: 2 – 4 hours after the run
The body is not fully back to its regular state until about 2 – 4 hours after a running. Once your body is cooled down and the muscles are relaxed, foam rolling can bring great benefit. While it’s not a necessary step, including a quick foam rolling session after particularly intense or long runs will encourage optimal recovery.
The Perfect Running Cooldown Routine
Try adding this running cooldown routine to your training. Practice this routine consistently after each run to encourage optimal recovery and set your body up for long term success.
- Recovery jog: 1-2 minutes
- Recovery walk: 5-10 minutes
- Mobility exercises: 5 minutes
- Hip circles
- Side shuffles
- Leg swings
- Static stretching or yoga: 10 minutes
- Downward Dog
- Thread the Needle
- Pigeon Pose
- Butterfly Pose
- Runner’s Lunge
- Standing Quad Stretch
- Standing Calf Stretch
- Foam rolling: 10 minutes
Incorporating a cool down after running might feel like a chore, or something that can easily be skipped, but staying consistent with this habit will be a great benefit as training progresses. The more efficiently your body recovers, the easier your runs will feel and more effort you will be able to give.
Try adding this running cooldown routine to the end of your next run and see how different your body feels in the hours and days to come!