The Science of Cool Downs

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m as dodgy and unprepared as your average runner. My idea of a warm up is lacing up my trainers. After all, it counts as a hamstring stretch, surely?

 However there is one thing every runner should never skip.

 The Cool Down

 Now here’s the complicated sciency bit.

 As most of you know, arteries carry oxygenated blood and glucose to the muscles and veins carry deoxygenated blood away. The deoxygenated blood post exercise is full of waste products such as carbon dioxide, lactic acid, and excess water.

Veins are stretchy and hold at least 60% of the body’s blood supply. They are also furthest from the heart so are less affected by it’s ‘pump action’.

The way that the body helps the heart move the blood through the veins is through a clever system called the skeletal muscular pump. As the muscles move against the veins they squeeze the blood around the body, like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube.

cool downpump action

So what’s this got to do with your run? So you’ve been out for your daily, come home and plonk yourself straight down on the sofa with a cup of tea…….the skeletal muscular pump stops………and all the toxins stay in legs. This increases your chance of soreness the next day and delays your recovery as it slows down delivery of nutrients and glucose to the areas you worked.

The long and the short of it, is you could save yourself a lot of pain and discomfort by adding a walk at the end of your run.

How Far?

My own rule of thumb is roughly 10% of my run. I normally cap this at 1.5 miles. Similarly if I’ve run 6 hard miles and my legs are burning then I will increase this. Different levels of fitness might require longer or shorter as our bodies get rid of lactic acid more effectively as we become more aerobically fit.

So I know you’re tired, I know you just want to sit down and eat cake. But if you don’t have a cool down routine (throw in some stretches while you’re at it) start one, you’ll thank me the next day.

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3 Responses to The Science of Cool Downs

  1. TartanJogger says:

    You’re totally right about this: I know only through my own stupidity that I feel much, much better after walking some of the distance home. Thanks for the technical info on why this is!

  2. runnermlf says:

    Reblogged this on Running This Race and commented:
    I always try and tell people how important a warm up and cool down are. I didn’t do them for a really long time, and now I do suffer for it.
    Don’t ignore your body!!!!!!!!!!! Do what it is already telling you and COOL DOWN.
    Thanks Improbable Runner for sharing this post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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