Best Cool-Down Exercises for Runners

A solid cool-down ritual after your training runs and races is just as important to your performance and recovery as the warmup. Where the warmup prepares you for the upcoming workout (try these tips to really Rev Up Your Warmup), the cool down eases your body back into reality and prepares you for the next workout.

By cutting these two bookends short or avoiding them completely, you're missing out on an easy-to-earn avenue to progress.

Walking post-run efficiently transitions blood from the working muscles to the resting flow patterns. Stopping abruptly after runs encourages blood pooling and can cause dizziness. Walking a few minutes post-run is the minimalist cool down if you run out of time, and if you're looking to reap even more benefits, consider tailoring the cool down routine to the type of workout or race.

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Here are a few ways to go about easily doing this:

Easy Effort Run Cool Down Routine:

  • 3-5 minutes of brisk then gentle walking—think of exiting off the expressway, and transition from running to brisk walking to easy effort walking
  • (Optional) 5-10 minutes - Perform form drills for form, strength, and mobility
  • 5-10 minutes- Perform total body flexibility (foam rolling, stretches). Try these Stretches That Prevent Post-Run Injury.

Quality Run (hard effort) Cool Down Routine:

  • 5-10 minutes of easy effort running or run-walking after your tempo, speed, or other quality running
  • 3-5 minutes of brisk to then gentle walking
  • 5-10 minutes of total body stretching (include foam rolling in the warmup routine or 2-6 hours after hard workouts)

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Long Run Cool Down Routine:

  • 10 minutes of easy effort walking
  • 5-10 minutes- Cold water bath, shower, garden hose, river or lake soak
  • 5-10 minutes in Yoga Pose "Legs Up on the Wall" or "Viparita Karani" (see #6 Leg Drop Pose in this video). You can perform this on the floor, on the ground in the shade of a tree, and in bed. It refreshes circulation, gently stretches the legs, and is a great way to reflect on your long run.
  • Wait 2-6 hours after a long run finish for stretching, massage, or self-massage (foam roll). This allows your body (muscles) time to replenish fluids, energy and recover from the demands of the long run, which makes for more optimal timing to stretch and release tight muscles.

The workout doesn't end there—follow these tips to Recover The Right Way From Long Runs.

Race Day Cooldown Routine:

  • 5-10K races- 10 minutes of easy effort running or run-walking followed by 5-minutes of easy effort walking
  • Half-full marathon+ races- 10 minutes of easy effort walking.
  • 5-10 minutes- Cold water bath, shower, garden hose, river or lake soak to reduce swelling
  • 5-10 minutes in Yoga Pose "Legs Up on the Wall" or "Viparita Karani."
  • 2-6 hours post long run finish- Total body stretching and foam rolling
  • 24-48 hours post long distance race- Massage.
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About the Author

Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is an Active Expert, co-author of the best-selling Marathoning for Mortals, and the Running for Mortals series. As a columnist for Women's Running Magazine and RunnersWorld.com, Jenny has trained thousands of runners and walkers like you with her training plans and guidance. Known for her "Ask Coach Jenny" brand, she empowers individuals of all experience levels to improve their running performance and train more effectively for their next event by answering their questions. You can follow her on Twitter and at the Ask Coach Jenny Facebook page

Coach Jenny Hadfield is an Active Expert, co-author of the best-selling Marathoning for Mortals, and the Running for Mortals series. As a columnist for Women's Running Magazine and RunnersWorld.com, Jenny has trained thousands of runners and walkers like you with her training plans and guidance. Known for her "Ask Coach Jenny" brand, she empowers individuals of all experience levels to improve their running performance and train more effectively for their next event by answering their questions. You can follow her on Twitter and at the Ask Coach Jenny Facebook page

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