Running cool-down: Why you shouldn’t skip it  

Don’t forget to cool down, it’ll benefit you in the long run.

Once you’ve finished a run, an important thing you need to do (aside from stopping your running tech), is cool down. It’s just as crucial as warming up, but instead of preparing your body to run, you’re allowing it to recover.

Although evidence is limited on how effective a cool-down is, spending a few minutes allowing your body to return to its pre-exercise state can help prevent dizziness and give you time to catch your breath.

With the help of running coach Tanya Boardman, we’ll tell you more about the benefits of a running cool-down. We’ve also put together a simple routine that you can use after your run today.

Woman outside holding onto bar stretching her gluteCredit: Shutterstock/ – Yuri A

Is it important to cool down?

Cooling down helps your body to start its recovery process and gets your breathing back to normal. If you suddenly stop, blood pools in the lower half of your body, which can make you feel light-headed, dizzy and faint, explains Boardman.

“During exercise, your heart will have been pumping blood hard around your body,” she says. “To avoid a drop in blood pressure, you need to spend a few minutes recovering with slower and less demanding movement.”

You can also use your cool-down time to pat yourself on the back and revel in the endorphins you’ve created.


How should I cool down? (and how long for?)

The quickest and easiest way to cool down after a run is to walk.

Within around five minutes, you’ll start to feel your heart slowing to its normal rate and your breathing should begin to level naturally.

Including some light static (held without moving) stretches in your cool-down could also help reduce feelings of stiffness.

What’s a good cool-down routine?

Walking: Decelerate into a walk at the end of your run.

You may feel that you’ve recovered enough after a few minutes of walking, and if so, you can go about your day. There’s no conclusive evidence to suggest stretching has any benefits to aid recovery, so if you don’t want to include anything further, you don’t have to.

However, if you want to take advantage of your muscles being warm to add in some stretches, try some of the options below.

Ensure you’re not overstretching. You want to feel a pull in the muscle, but not so much that it’s uncomfortable.

Calf stretch: Lean forwards onto a wall or the back of a chair, and step back with your right leg. Press your right heel into the ground and press your hips forwards. Hold for 20 seconds, then repeat on the opposite leg.

Woman performing calf stretchCredit: Saga Exceptional

Hamstring stretch: Take a step forward with your right leg, keeping it straight. Bend your back knee forwards and ‘sit’ backwards. You should feel a stretch at the back of your thigh on your front leg. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the left leg.

Woman performing Hamstring stretchCredit: Saga Exceptional

Glute stretch: Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your right ankle across the knee of your left leg and lean forwards. Hold for 20 seconds, and repeat with the opposite leg.

Woman performing glute stretchCredit: Saga Exceptional

Side stretch: Reach your hands above your head and bend to the right. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side. Remember to breathe.

Woman performing side stretchCredit: Saga Exceptional

You could also try our best yoga poses for beginners guide while your muscles are warm, to add some extra flexibility exercises to your cool-down.

Rebecca Frew

Written by Rebecca Frew she/her


Becky Frew has written various articles for newspapers and magazines focusing on fitness, is a qualified run leader, and a certified sleep talker trainer who loves to help advise people how they can nod off easier.

When she is not writing or reading about fitness, she is at hot pod yoga, bounce class, training for an ultra-marathon or booking anything with a medal and free food at the end.

Outside of work Becky is practicing her Finnish (Hei!) for her dream holiday to Finland next year, and writing her 3rd book while cuddling her cats Giggles and Rebel- the latter of which really lives up to her name!

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