During a run, your body uses a variety of systems to provide the crucial mix of blood and oxygen necessary to get your body moving.
If you stop suddenly, blood pools in your legs and feet, and you might experience dizziness as a result. It’s also possible for waste, like lactic acid, to buildup in your muscles. The best way to avoid all this is by taking the time to do a structured cool-down after your run.
How to Do the Perfect Running Cool-Down1 of 5
If you are finishing an easy run, gently slow your heart rate by treating the last five to 10 minutes as a light jog. If you are finishing a hard run, build in at least 10 minutes of easy running. Gradually decreasing your intensity level will prevent your blood pressure from dropping too quickly, and will give your veins times to constrict.
You want these cool-downs to be easy in relation to your workout effort, but without a drastic drop. Once your heart rate has lowered you can begin a short, slow walk.
While your body is still warm, get in some of the following stretches and drills that will benefit your running form.
High-Knee March2 of 5
Perform the high-knee march for about 25 yards. Make sure you are standing straight and tall, and alternate lifting your knees toward your chest. Don't lean toward your knee. As you march, you can use your hands to give your knee a slight tug. Be sure to keep your knee in line and don't pull it to either side of your body.
Backward Hamstring Walk3 of 5
Since you've just spent so much time in forward motion, it's nice to change it up and do a backward walk to stretch your hamstrings.
As you walk backward, bend toward the leg that is out front, stand up and switch. With all these drills, try to see where and how you are placing your foot. Is it positioned too far outside of your body or too far inside? If so, this may be something you can work on during your next run.
Static Stretches4 of 5
After these two dynamic stretches, you can add in a few static stretches for your quads, calves, and IT band. Hold each of these stretches for at least 15 seconds and try not to bounce into them. These should be gentle and will continue bringing your heart rate down.
In total, your cool-down should take you approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As soon as that's completed, be sure to refuel your muscles with a recovery drink or meal that has both protein and carbohydrates. And of course, don't forget to hydrate.