Why & How: The Cool Down

Injury Prevention Physiology Training Advice

Often neglected and certainly not getting the attention it deserves, the cool down is important for a number of reasons.

Below, I’ll make the case for why you should take the time to move from a slow jog to a walk as you end your run.

Temperature

Have you ever seen those thermal blankets at the finish life of large races? It’s a warm day but runners will still be wrapped in bright silver to stay warm. Why is this?

The act of running generates a great deal of internal body heat and your body is constantly working to cool yourself. When you suddenly stop running you stop generating excess body heat, however your body’s cooling system does not stop as quickly and continues to function. This is why runners can get very cold after running.

A cool down can serve as the bridge from running to inactivity, easing down your body temperature.

Blood Pressure

Lightheadedness can also occur after a run due to a drop in blood pressure. A gradual decrease in your running pace can also help manage this so you do not become dizzy.

If this does occur, be quick to lay down and get your feet up. That will return blood to your head and resolve the feeling of lightheadedness.

Reflection

Health concerns aside, perhaps the best reason to perform a short cool down is to reflect upon the run.

When I run an out and back route I usually go a bit farther out so when I hit my distance goal on the way back I have room to walk a few blocks. If I logged the run with my mobile phone this allows me to log the workout and reflect upon how it went.

It’s Part of the Workout

After a track workout you’ll often see an easy 1-2 mile cooldown is prescribed afterwards, and it’s tempting to skip it. The workout is done, right?

Wrong!

Look at those easy 2 miles after you just did 6 x 1 mile hard as part of the workout. You’re running easy in a fatigued state. While this accomplishes all of the above points it also serves as further stimulation for adaptation.

Do you perform a cool down? Why or why not?

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