Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Ask The Coach: Why Is a Cool Down Important After a Run?

"Why is a cool-down important after a run?" It's a question I'm often asked. Nobody seems to mind the warm-up, but when I say, "Ok, get your cool-down in?" I often hear moans and groans. Once you finish that last repeat, you're done, right? Well, technically you're done with the repeats, but not quite yet with the workout. 

A cool-down run aids the body in several ways, but here are three that I'm keen on.

  1. Faster recovery
  2. More effective results from your workout
  3. Helps your body return to a state of rest 

Faster Recovery: The easy slow jog after your workout, continues to supply your muscles with oxygenated blood. This helps jump start the recovery process and also avoid sore muscles. Also, during intense speed workouts, the body produces lactic acid and other energy production waste products. The cool-down jog helps your body more quickly flush out these waste products also aiding in a quicker recovery.

More Effective Results: If you're body begins the recovery and rebuilding process quicker, then you're going to see better results from your workouts and quicker. You'll also be better prepared for you next run or workout instead of still feeling sluggish or sore from the previous workout.

Helps Your Body Return to State of Rest: Doing a cool-down jog after a speed workout allows your heart rate to come down slowly, allowing your body systems such as blood pressure to return to normal gradually. This also helps to avoid blood pooling in the legs after a hard workout. Ever felt dizzy after a speed workout? Improper hydration and/or fueling can be the culprit, but blood pooling in the legs is often the cause. A simple cool-down jog can help avoid this. That same cool-down jog can also let your body's cooling system wind down gradually. Have you ever finished a speed workout and as soon as you stopped, if feels like a faucet turned on in your body and suddenly your drenched in sweat? That's because during your workout, your body is working hard to keep you cool. When you land that last step of your speed workout, your body doesn't automatically shut down it's cooling plant. It's still going full force. A cool-down jog gives your brain time to realize that you are winding down and no longer need as much cooling-off support. As your heart rate comes down, that faucet will start to turn to the off position.

The more intense the workout, the more important the cool-down. Most experts recommend a 5- to 10-min cool-down. I usually tell my runners to do a half to a full mile for their cool-down. Remember, the cool down pace should be your easy run pace or slightly slower to be effective. If you're newer to speed workouts and you feel like you just have nothing left for a cool-down jog after your workout, try doing a 5- to 10-min cool-down walk.  Also, keep in mind that short-and-fast is hard and long-and-slow is hard. I've found it very beneficial to do a 5 to 10-min cool-down walk after a long run. It provides the same benefits as that cool-down jog after that speed workout.

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