The Marathon Series: Cooling Down

Wednesday 17 December 2014 by

Frost, Running, Fitness, HoBFitness, Marathon training, December, Cold

Welcome back to week four of my Marathon Series, as I blog my way to a marathon – from beginner to 26.2 miles. This week, we’re talking about cooling down.

Last time, I briefly talked about warming up before running. This time, I’m listing a few stretches to make sure you recover from your run properly. Without a suitable warm-up and cool-down routine, you risk injuring yourself permanently. These stretches do come with a health warning: listen to your body! Only stretch as far as your body can manage, and if some stretches are bad for you, don’t do them, no matter what I say.

Each stretch is held for twenty to thirty seconds (I count in “elephants” to make sure I get a good stretch).

Touch your toes

Standing with your feet shoulder-with apart, slowly roll your body downwards until your fingers touch your toes. Don’t worry too much if your fingers don’t reach all the way, it will get better! You should feel the stretch up the back of your legs. Hold for twenty to thirty seconds, then roll your body back upright. Try not to bend your knees here, but don’t lock them up either. Keep them soft.

Hamstring stretch

You’ll need your balance for this one. Find a surface about hip height, put your foot up, and then try to touch your toes again. Hold, then switch feet and repeat.

Static forward lunge

We all know what a lunge looks like. Step forward in to the lunge position, and hold. Your legs should all sit at 90° angles. Switch feet and repeat.

Quad stretch

Another one that needs balance! Lift your foot up behind you until it’s touching your bum, and hold it there for your count of twenty or thirty. Careful not to hold your foot, but rather your ankle, and keep your hips square and knees close together rather than twisting to accommodate the stretch. You will feel the stretch down your quad, and to put the stretch on a bit more, simply tuck your foot closer to your body. Switch feet and repeat.

Achilles stretch

Place one foot just in front of the other, and “sit” back on the rear foot. You should be able to feel the stretch in the lower calf and ankle. Go gently with this one if you suffer from ankle and foot injuries, but ultimately you should be able to balance on just the rear foot (the front foot is for balance). Switch feet and repeat.

Calf stretch

Place your hands flat against a wall, and put your feet hip-width apart. Take one foot, and stretch back as far as you can go. Your foot should be totally flat to the floor at all times (no tiptoes!) and the stretch should reach up the whole calf. Switch feet and repeat.

Glute stretch

Sitting down, place one leg straight out and bend your knee to a 90° angle so it forms an upside down L from your body. Place your leg out to the side (another 90°), and bend the knee to a 90° angle, again, so it forms an L shape. Take a deep breath, then slowly lean forward over the front leg, breathing out as you go. Hold it there for a count of twenty or thirty. You will feel the stretch right up in the bum and top of the leg. Switch around so the other leg is out the front, and repeat.

Cooling down is hugely essential to good running. You avoid injury, and your recovery is that much quicker. It’s so important to take the extra five minutes to cool down after a run and get your body in to the right zone. Your muscles will repair much more quickly, but it also means that your next run will be easier, because you have healthy, stretched muscles. Don’t leave it for ages before you cool down after your run, your muscles should still be warm so you don’t do any damage. I tend to do it whilst I’m having a post-run drink, before my shower.

What do you do to cool down after exercise?

Don’t forget to let me know how you’re getting on, using the hashtag #HoBFitness. And check back next week to talk about safety while running.

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