Today, I want to talk about one of the least sexy things about running, but one of the most crucially important, if you want, consistent long-term results and that is cooling down. We're going to talk about why you should be doing it if you're not doing it now and what you should be doing during a cooldown.
If you haven't been with me here before, I'm Jesse Funk, the founder of Solpri.com and the host of this show Runner's High, where we talk about everything running, including today's topic, why and how you should be cooling down. So if you haven't been here before, you're going to want to hit subscribe. Stick around with me for more episodes every single week.
Now, the why I think, is the biggest part because we get around to doing our workout and we know I should be doing long runs because it's going to increase my aerobic capacity. And how does that help me? It makes me go faster in races because I've got a bigger engine and I should be doing speed work because if you want to go fast, you've got to go fast.
But cooling down, it's a little more nebulous and maybe it feels okay, but what is it actually doing? Why are we doing it? Really, the why comes down to three components preventing muscle fatigue. Preventing stiffness and preventing muscle soreness.
So we're trying to put in a little bit of time just post-run to prevent some of these problems and soreness, not so much of an issue although it's a little bit of an irritation, but to me, it's the fatigue and the stiffness that are going to be the crux of issues that you run into when you don't spend time cooling down.
Fatigue is an obvious one, right? So if you're more tired, you're going to be less able to perform the next time you go out to do the thing, whether it's running or some other kind of exercise. If you're fatigued, you can't perform as well. That is helped or aided by our cooldown because we go through an active cooldown phase, which I'll discuss as we go along in this video, and that gets blood flowing without the intensity of exercise.
So it helps get nutrients in bad stuff out if we put up lactic acid or any of that kind of thing. And that helps produce the effect of reduced fatigue. Now the stiffness part, this one's a little bit tougher and I'm actually going to play some conjecture here. And this is me kind of putting this out here. But my suspicion here is that by reducing muscle stiffness, we should see a correlated reduction in injuries over time. Why? Why am I saying that? So go with me here.
So maybe we get stiff after a workout because we didn't cool down. We know we can warm up, just be real gradual and light in our warmup before we get going into the next activity the next day or a couple of days later or whatever it is. So the warm up is important to getting get joints lubricated, get muscles warmed up, get blood flowing so that they are going to be working and active at full capacity.
But that stiffness, if we can prevent some of it. I'm suggesting that we can prevent some injuries because we know injuries, the acute kind, not the I've been doing this forever and ever and ever kind when something happens suddenly is often due to this overly tightened muscle or too tight of a tendon depends on the situation, and then a too high of load being placed on that muscle or tendon and then a tear occurring.
So if we spend time cooling down, reducing muscle stiffness, that means that our warmups can probably be more effective, thus reducing the injury rate. I, as I said in laying this out, is conjecture because I don't have necessarily hard data or a big study to say this is what is definitely going to happen. But I don't think it's too much of a logical leap to say, "Hey, if we spend a little bit of time preventing the stiffness issue, we should hopefully prevent some of these acute injuries that pop up."
So let's get on to the how and what you should actually be doing, depending on what kind of workout you've been doing or what kind of run you've been doing.
Let's start with the staple of running that long run. Do you even need to cool down from a long run? It's basically like an extended cooldown itself, right? Yes and no. So yes, the long runs are supposed to be easy and you should be taking it easy. You should feel comfortable for that whole run, but especially the longer you go.
We're really talking about a long run. You've been out 45 minutes, an hour, an hour, 15, an hour and a half or longer for you, maybe marathon ultra folks. Then at the end, there's going to be this position you've been in where you've been firing at the same rate, your muscles have been firing at the same rate and for the same range of motion for an extended period of time.
I find this to be a position where often you can reduce your overall range of motion because of this firing pattern for such a long period of time. So I'm going to suggest, and this is a little unorthodox, not super, but people wouldn't typically classify this as cooldown.
I would suggest the how of post long run cooldown to actually be starting with some strides. And the reason is to prevent what I just mentioned, getting locked into that lower range of motion and into a smaller firing pattern. So when we move faster, we're incorporating more muscle fibers to fire at a higher rate.
When we teach our body to use these muscle fibers or a larger amount of them, then we become more effective at it for long runs. If we only spend time doing long runs, then we aren't trying to recruit all these extra muscle fibers and thus become less effective during long runs.
Now, there is the extra effect of sometimes during long runs, muscle fibers become fatigued and they rely on other muscle fibers. And that can lead down a road into injury, as many things can in running. But starting with strides keeps your firing rate high. You try to incorporate more muscles or muscle fibers into firing so that you're more effective for those long runs, and then you're trying to keep your range of motion high.
Again, talking about that stiffness we try to prevent, that should help you. So when you come back to maybe do faster work or some tempo, even if you're not going very fast, that increased range of motion should allow you to put power through without the potential for that acute injury.
Beyond the strides, though, I really like doing a dynamic cool down of some kind. That means moving around, not just sitting down doing static stretches like if you are of similar age to me or older. We grew up with kids in the 90s and younger. I don't know what we're doing in gym class nowadays, but so this means moving.
As I mentioned earlier, we want to do some kind of active recovery. And to me, active recovery is where we are moving to some degree, which is lesser than the activity which we just partook in. So this is so we're not inducing more muscle damage or fatigue from that activity.
When you're doing a long run, there's not a whole lot else to go down to because you're already going easy running, right? So walking is a good way to start and then going to do some drills from there. One of the things I think is neglected but very important is hip mobility. So you can do like hip circles. Let's see if I can stand up here.
These are just as you imagine, or if you watch SpongeBob, you know, you're bringing around town doing these hip circles. You go both directions. So why that's important is because you're going to open up that hip mobility. Those hip flexors sometimes can sometimes get really tight as we do all of our long runs.
And again, that limited range of motion. We want our hip flexors to be mobile and open because when you go through the push-off phase, we move my chair out of the way. When you go through the push-off phase and running. So when you're here and then your leg comes here and pushes back and goes off, sorry, my frame not right, but that push-off phase when your leg goes through the back motion, your hip flexor gets stretched.
So if you're only doing long runs and you've limited your range of motion. That tightness, again, that I been talking about, we're trying to prevent, then you are kind of doing a disservice to yourself when you want to get up to speed because the length of that push out to the back is going to increase as compared to our long run, which is why we want to do those strides. We want to do hip circles.
There's a whole number of other things you can be doing anything from touching your toes as you walk. You can be doing this kind of like pigeon-toed pigeon toe, like pigeon toe in, toes out. I don't know what to call that doing that as you walk kind of thing, lifting your leg up to your butt, pulling your knee up to your chest, all those kind of things are really great drills.
Hopefully, I can get better shooting time and we can demo some of these drills outside. Hopefully, I'm going to shoot them here in the office. And you just saw them instead of me trying to do them in frame. I'm going to shift the frame here in a second, but it's not easy to look some of the things up on YouTube as well.
Well, I definitely don't have room to show you here in the office are some of the more dynamic, cool down and warm up options that you can do. A skips, B skips, C skips. If you're at track, doing things with hurdles that hip mobility, all that kind of stuff. As we move into the fall and I continue to recover from my Achilles injury, that's been just a bear this year and really reduce the number of miles I've been able to put on. I'm hoping to get out and actually shoot some more of this stuff.
So that's kind of the why and how of cooling down. Hopefully, that gives you a few tips. For any questions you have for me or future videos you'd like to see, please leave it in the comments below. As always, subscribe and hopefully, I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.