For some reason, warming up and cooling down before and after a workout seems to be dreaded by the masses. We know you’re excited to jump right in to the workout, but to prevent getting injured and to ensure that you’re training at an optimal level, a proper warmup and cooldown is essential.
Before going on a run, you should do dynamic movements such as the calf stretch, thoracic spine rotation, and hamstring stretch to elevate your heart rate and get your muscles ready to work. After you’ve finished your run — no matter how far or how fast you went – you’ve got to make sure you treat your body with the same TLC and cool down properly. There isn’t one perfect way to cool down, but here are some general guidelines you should follow after every run.
“People should cool down after a run, or exercise in general, because it helps to normalize your heart rate and blood pressure,” Vinh Pham, DPT, founder of Myodetox and Asystem’s director of recovery, told POPSUGAR. Cooling down also helps to regulate your breathing, blood flow, heart rate, and brings your body’s temperature back to preexercise levels, which prevents you from feeling faint and getting sick, he explained.
The cool down is also a great opportunity to stretch out tired muscles, which will more than likely become tight later — and we all know that tight muscles after running is miserable. You’ve probably heard that you should save static stretching for after a workout and it’s true. Static stretching can decrease your strength and power output before a training session, and postworkout is a great time to get them in. Consider stretches like a forward fold and the straddle stretch because your body is still warm and has more elasticity in the muscles, Pham said.
Taking an extra 10 minutes to cool down after a run may seem unnecessary but it can help you prevent feeling sick and repeatedly building up tightness in your muscles, which can make you more prone to injury, Pham explained. To avoid this, he recommends completing a slow jog for three to five minutes after a run to decrease your heart rate. After that, walk for one to two minutes in order to bring your heart rate back to a resting rate.
Once you’ve finished walking, you can focus on slow stretches targeting the muscles and joints of the muscles being used. For example, after a run, you’ll want to focus on the muscles in your legs such as your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps; you’ll want to stretch or roll out your feet and toes; and you’ll even want to stretch out your arms. And if you’re feeling extra sore or want to show your muscles a little more TLC, Pham recommends foam rolling as well.
Cooling down and recovering is just as important as your running workouts and only takes a couple of extra minutes to complete. By doing so, you’ll be able to prevent injury and help keep your body performing at an optimal level. In addition to cooling down, don’t forget to fuel your body with adequate nutrition before and after your workouts to sustain your energy levels and to help your muscles repair.