Love it or hate it, the cooldown is an important part of your workout. While the warmup prepares your body for the hard work that lies ahead, the cooldown gently brings your body back to reality and kick-starts the recovery process, so you’ll be ready for your next run. Not sure what you should include in a proper cooldown? Follow these steps to get the final piece of your workout right every time.
1. 10-15 minutes of easy running
Stopping abruptly after a hard run is a shock to your body and can cause you to cramp up. Starting the cooldown process with some easy movement, like a slow jog, helps to bring your heart rate down gradually to its resting state, and facilitates blood flow and movement in your lymphatic system to start shuttling lactic acid out of your muscles.
2. 3-5 minutes of brisk walking
This is an even gentler continuation of your slow jog, which allows you to continue bringing your heart rate down to normal levels.
3. 5-10 minutes of stretching
This should be a full-body, gentle stretch, to help loosen any areas that tightened up during your workout. Start from the bottom by stretching your calves, then hamstrings, quads and hips. Many runners hold tension in their shoulders and chest, so don’t forget to stretch those areas as well.
4. Hydrate and refuel
Hydrating immediately after your workout is important to replace the fluids you lost through sweat, and taking in some carbohydrates and protein within 20-30 minutes of your workout will improve your recovery. Ideally, you want something that has a 3-4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio (chocolate milk is a classic) to replenish your glycogen stores and support muscle recovery.
5. Foam roll or massage
Two to six hours after your run is a good time to hop on your foam roller because this gives your muscles time to recover from the workout before you start putting any extra stress on them. Now is also a good time to do a bit more stretching if you have any areas that are particularly tight.