How To Properly Cool Down After A Run In 3 Steps!

How Long Do I Need To Cool Down For After Running?

The idea of cooling down after a run has persisted as long as competitive running has, even though many runners don’t know the reason. Once you’re finished with a hard run, it’s tempting to just stop and have a nice rest instead of an active cool-down. So, what’s the deal with cooldowns? 

Read on to find out everything you need to know about cooling down after running!

What Are The Proper Steps To Cool-Down After Running?

Experienced runners may have their own preferred steps to cooling down after a hard run, but if you’re new to the hobby, here’s a great method that you can edit to fit your needs as you progress! The whole idea of cooling down is taking your body from an active state to a more sedentary state gradually. This allows your muscles as well as your mind to slowly begin the transition into a more relaxed and calm state.

  1. Light Run to Brisk Walk – Take 5 to 10 minutes for a cool-down light run slowly transitioning into a brisk walk.
  2. Brisk Walk to Gentle Walk – Take 3 to 5 minutes to transition from a quick, brisk walk to a gentle pace.
  3. Stretch – 5 to 10 minutes of post-run stretching, focusing on the calves, upper legs, and hamstrings. 

Related: 10 Ways To Improve Your Walking Speed

Should I Stretch After I Cool Down?

Yes! Stretching after a cool-down gives your body a chance to switch from exercise mode to rest mode and avoid soreness.

Stretching may seem like a waste of time after a hard workout, but if you skip this important cool-down step, you’re going to regret it later! Do the stretches now and your muscles will thank you.

If you decide to stretch after you cool down from your run, now is the time to perform your static stretches.

Related: Best Post-Run Static Stretches For Runners (videos included)

Is It Okay To Skip A Cool-Down After Running – What Are The Consequences If I Do Skip?

Skipping a cool-down every once in a while is okay, but if you do it frequently, there are a few adverse effects.

For one, you’re much more likely to be stiff and sore after any workout if you skip the cool-down. Running puts stress on your muscles that can be gently alleviated with a proper cool-down technique.

Secondly, when your heart rate goes from a quick workout pace to a slower resting pace, it can leave you feeling lightheaded and uncomfortable. Bringing your heart rate down slowly with a cool-down eases this feeling.

What Is Actually Happening When You Cool Down?

Cooling down allows your body to transition from its active state (working out) to a static state (rest) gradually.

When you run, your body is firing on all cylinders. Your heart rate is high, your muscles are engorged with blood, and you’re breathing hard. This is all the result of a great cardio exercise and is beneficial for your body, but an instantaneous cessation of this state can leave your body reeling.

Including a cool-down routine in your run allows all of these effects, like your heart rate, for example, to be brought back down to a base resting level gently. A softer transition like this will save you from post-workout lightheadedness, reduce fatigue, and help you avoid soreness.

How Long Should I Cool Down For After A Half Marathon?

Cool-down times for a half marathon, for most runners, tend to be between 30 and 40 minutes. 

After a race as long as a half-marathon, give your body ample extra time before you engage in any intensive massaging, stretching, or foam rolling. You’re going to want to give your muscles time to heal and replenish fluids.

2-4 hours post-run should be adequate time before more strenuous recovery routines. 

Regular post-run stretching is still recommended, just not at any intensity that could make your run recovery more difficult or painful.

How Long Should I Cool Down After A Marathon?

For a marathon, runners report a cool-down of 35 to 45 minutes.

As with the cool-down for the half marathon, avoid any stretching, massaging, or foam rollers. Normal stretching is fine. Going too hard on your muscles post-run can actually be detrimental to your recovery.

For intense recovery routines after a full marathon, wait 4-6 hours to ensure that you are properly rested.

After a long cool-down of 20 minutes or more following a half marathon or marathon race, I personally like to lie on my back and elevate my legs on the wall at 45-degree angle. This forces new blood to be pumped into your legs refreshing your legs.

Related: Are You Ready To Run Your First Marathon?

Is It Ok To Sit Down Immediately After A Half Marathon Or Marathon?

A marathon is very hard on your body, and even though running is an amazing exercise, you still want to take it easy after such a long and difficult race. If you plan on skipping a proper cool-down, do yourself a favor and walk for at least 10 minutes before sitting post-marathon. Walking around for a bit after a marathon helps prevent the blood in the legs from pooling. I personally walk for about 20 minutes after a marathon or 1-2 miles before sitting down if possible.

Related: How To Not Injure Myself When Training For A Marathon

If you sit immediately after a marathon, the sudden change in activity level can cause your blood pressure to drop, leaving you dizzy and lightheaded.

Even just 10 minutes of walking can help even out your heart rate, leaving you feeling much better after your hard race.

In Conclusion

Cool-downs may seem like a waste of time, but in reality, they are an important part of keeping your body healthy after a hard run or workout. 

To get the most out of your runs, include a proper cool-down.

The proper order of your run routine should look like this:

  • Warm-Up ( 5-10 minutes )
  • Stretch As Needed  ( 5-10 minutes dynamic only )
  • Running Workout/Routine ( as long as session demands )
  • Cool-Down ( 5-10 minutes)

Related: How To Walk 10,000 Steps A Day!


Coach Scott's Credentials: He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 17th half marathon race. 

 To sign up for a FREE half marathon training schedule, log sheet, and pace predictor CLICK HERE.

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