Runners do this thing where they love to run so much they forget to do anything else. I talked about how too many miles led me straight to injury, and how post-injury I have to pay attention to rest days and recovery so that I am properly taking care of my body. Still, there are days when I have thismuchtime to get my run in and warming up and cooling down feels like it gets in the way!
Usually my cool down looks something like this…
Two VERY important reasons I (and you!) should be cooling down:
1. Avoid cramping and dizziness.
Your blood pressure rises when you are working out and so stopping abruptly and not allowing your blood pressure and heart rate to slowly come down can cause the blood to pool in your veins and give you a kind of dizzy feeling. Also, your muscles will rebel and you’ll start to cramp. I’ve definitely hopped off the Spin bike too soon and gotten a Charley horse!
2. Let your muscles recover for your next workout.
If you just jog it out after a run, your range of motion isn’t big enough to work out every muscle in your body. Obviously working every muscle in your body is a difficult task, but doing more dynamic movements will release the tension in more of your muscles, and you can avoid future injury (source). Do some high knee marching, high knee skipping, or straight leg shuffles. I can do it while I walk back towards my apartment…you can do it while you walk back to your car…we can make this cool down thing happen.
I know what I am supposed to do…it’s just so hard to make myself do it. Usually when my GPS rings and I know my run is over, I immediately slow down and start walking. For the chorus of a song, for an entire song, for the amount of time it takes to upload a picture to Instagram…it’s a very carefully timed walk. Not. But after that, I will typically jog a quarter of a mile at a slower pace to let my heart rate come down. Then I’ll walk a little more and usually by that time, I am home. Outside of my apartment, I’ll do some simple leg stretches (hamstrings and quads) and stretch out my arms. I also bend over and touch my toes because I feel like that’s necessary, but apparently that can really strain your lower back. 😉
And of course I have my trusty foam roller and massage stick once I’m inside! At times, we’re all slackers. We’re all busy with 104 things to do. If you’re slacking on a legitimate cool down you should at least do these three things:
1. Massage your muscles.
Use a foam roller or a massage stick…you will be glad you did.
2. Flush it out.
I know all the hoopla surrounding ice baths…the cold helps repair the little tiny tears in your muscles and the soreness that comes from repetitive workouts like running…but I just cannot bring myself to do it! I am a chronically cold person so exposing myself to more cold doesn’t sound good. Ice packs are the way for me!
EAT! AND DRINK! Your body needs protein and carbs after a hard run (or workout) and you need to replenish fluid and muscle glycogen and repair muscle damage (source). Once you remember why you have to do these things, it really reminds you that you are kind of beating up your body when you work out so you BETTER take a little bit of time to recover!
My favorite protein + carb combo is eggs + sweet potato…and my love for ketchup knows no bounds.
Even though I’m talking about running, this recovery should come after every kind of hard workout! When I teach Spinning classes or PiYo classes, there is designated time at the beginning and end of our workout to warm up and cool down. We have to get our bodies ready to work hard and we have to bring our bodies back to reality when the craziness is over!
Happy working out and happy Tuesday!