The Importance Of Cool Down & Post-Workout Nutrition
No matter what level you run at if you’re aiming to improve, getting into the habit of cooling down after training and racing are just as important for performance and recovery as the warm-up.
The purpose of the cool down is to lower your heart rate, ease your body back into a normal state, kick-start the recovery process and prepare yourself for your next run.
“I couldn’t move, I’d just ran a marathon and another minute running beyond that finish line was too much!” – sound familiar?
We’ve all been there, especially after a hard race. We’ve done the distance, completed the race, we’re finished. But if we go from a high-intensity effort to standing still, the outcome is inevitable. Cold muscles, seizing up, cramps, slow recovery and even worse, illness or injury. Post-marathon is not the time to start your cool down ritual for the first time, you must get well into the habit within your training.
The solution is quick, simple and the benefits outweigh the difficulty of taking those first few steps, which are the toughest. Add these cool down routines to your training:
- 5-15 minutes of slow jogging, gradually bringing your heart-rate down.
- Finish off with 2-5 minutes of easy walking
- Static stretching (as opposed to dynamic stretching within your warm-up)
- Post-workout nutrition within the 30-minute recovery window
Nutrition Recovery Window (30 Mins)
The timing of your post-workout nutrition is almost as important as the food and/drink you consume. The first nutritional window for optimal recovery is within 30 minutes of finishing your activity. Eating or drinking the right nutrients within this window is a great step to recovering well, ready for your next run.
You should aim to consume between 100-300 calories in a mix of carbohydrates and protein at a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1. Scientific studies have confirmed that these ratios are optimal for the body to re-synthesise glycogen in the muscles. The proportion of protein helps the body to produce muscle building amino acids and hormones.
Plan Your Training
Most runners, including the best in the world, usually do 2 or a maximum of 3 major sessions of focused running per week. The purpose of each of these sessions is to specifically improve their ability to be stronger and faster for their chosen distance. These key workouts are supported by slower, easier running on other days which apart from increasing overall training volume, has the sole purpose of getting the runner recovered and as fresh as possible to perform the next key session at the best possible standard. The improvement, or “super compensation” comes from stressing the body during these sessions, so the body, in turn, prepares itself to deal with stress in the future races.
The number one factor you’ll hear from coaches and athletes around the globe is that consistency is paramount for improvement. You can have a number of great training sessions and feel like you’re getting faster but unless you take care of your body and recover properly in-between sessions, that success will be short-lived. Recovery is vital for improvement.