Taking the time to do a proper cool down is important after finishing up a run, although it is often overlooked. According to the Stretching Institute, the goal of a cool down is to return the body to its pre-exercise levels and promote recovery from the stress placed on the body during running. Cooling down will also help you to avoid muscle soreness that can creep in after a long workout.
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Despite the temptation to sink into the couch, you should start your cool down with light running or jogging, depending on your fitness level. If you are a beginning runner, you can also walk during this part of the cool down. The important thing is to keep moving so that your heart rate can slowly return to normal. Depending on the intensity of your run, aim to lightly run or jog for 3 to 15 minutes. According to tips4running.com, jogging directly after a run helps to remove lactic acid from your muscles that built up during your run, which will cause your muscles to feel less fatigued.
After finishing with your light run, spend about 10 to 20 minutes stretching. According to the Stretching Institute, stretching is one of the most under-utilised techniques for getting rid of injuries and improving performance. Stretch all of the major muscles in your legs and be sure to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular stretching improves your flexibility and circulation, as well as helps you to maximise your range of motion. Feeling tension while stretching is normal; just remember to breath deeply and relax to gain the most benefit from each stretch.
End your cool down after your running workout with fluid and food to maximise recovery and prepare your body to perform again. Drink plenty of water, along with a quality sports drink that provides electrolytes to assist in re-hydration. According to the Stretching Institute, the best types of food to eat after running are those that can be digested easily, such as fruits.
Taking the time to cool down by following these three steps after running will ensure that your body recovers quickly while avoiding injury.
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