Cool Your Jets

Cooling down after a race isn't just necessary, it should be fun!

The most underrated type of run (in my opinion): the cool down.

It is really easy to skip over it or turn it into an absolute joke.  But the reality is, that a cool down is super important to your running.

A cool down - and I’m talking after a workout or race - is vital to helping your body come back down from the intense work you’ve just done.  You can’t go from 100 back to 0 without coming across some side effects.

Here are some major reasons why a cool down HAS to happen for you:

  1. Mileage boost.  The extra mileage is really good for your running.  Even at a slow pace, the added mileage will help your endurance.

  2. Relaxes your muscles. You’ve just done serious work, you have to come back down to normal and a cool-down does that for you.

  3. Heart rate. Your heart can’t go from maximum back to resting without a little help from time.  Spend a few minutes gathering yourself before tacking on some slow mileage to help bring your heart rate down.

  4. Get rid of waste. When you run really hard, you build up lactic acid and other byproducts.  A cool-down helps you rid your body of that.

  5. Cramps.  Cramps are when your muscles lock up and, speaking from experience, it is really, really painful.  These can be super intense and can last for a few minutes up to a few days.  

A post shared by Marc Pelerin | NJ Run Coach (@trainwithmarc_llc)

What can you do for a cool down?

The most ideal thing to do after running a workout or a race is to jog for 10 minutes. I’d say that’s probably the shortest amount of time you can go for.  I know, from experience, that I’ve run 5 or more miles a handful of times after a workout or race to cool down.  Again - this is as a runner who was running 70+ miles every week.

If you have the ability to cross-train as a cool down, sure, go for it. This might include cycling, rowing, or swimming, but remember, the best way to cool down from running is to run.  

Put It Into Practice

Ideally, the shorter the race, the longer the cool down.  I like to make my workout and race days the longest they can possibly be without risking injury.  If I’m racing a 5k, there’s a good chance I’m getting in close to 8 or 9 miles on that day.  (3-mile warmup, ~3-mile race, 3 miles cooldown)

A shorter race - say a mile - I’d prefer to run a few repeats or a tempo run after the effort to make this race day a long day.  A day like this would look something like this: 2-3 mile warmup, 1 mile race, 4 x 800 @ comfortably hard effort, 2 mile cool down.

Friday’s Action Plan:

After your next workout or race, plan on incorporating a cool-down into your schedule. Shift gears and slowly bring your heart rate back to normal with some easy running of at least 10 minutes.

Big Events Coming Up:

Boston Marathon: Monday, October 11th - 9:00am ET - NBCSN/Peacock

Chicago Marathon: Sunday, October 10th - 7:30am CT - NBCSN/Peacock

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Marc is a middle school teacher and coach but also works with distance runners online. I help distance runners around the globe by providing support, writing customized training plans, and designing workouts to help them reach their racing goals. I write for my blog every Wednesday morning and newsletter every Friday morning.