How to cooldown and recover between runs
Whether you're training for the next big event, or you're just jogging for health, it's important to rest well between sessions. Even the best runners in the world can't finish a two hour run, jump into the shower and go about the rest of their day. If you're going to be serious about your running, you're going to have to be serious about your resting.
Why do you need to cool down after a run?
It should come as no surprise that long distance running is tough on the body. Every time your feet hit the floor, your joints take a pounding. Each lunge forward stresses and tugs at your muscles. By the end of a long run, your muscles are literally torn. Microtraumas (small tears) rip their way through your limbs. Leaving them unattended can lead to agonising muscle pains for days or weeks after each session. It all sounds pretty grizzly, but just a few stretches and maybe the occasional ice bath are all you need to combat the pain. More on those ice baths later.
The best post-run cooldown routine
If you're looking for the perfect accompaniment to your cooldown routine, or if you're after a gift for a dedicated runner in your life, you'll love this Sportsman Recovery Kit.
10 minute gentle walk
The last thing you'll want to do after running for hours is go for a walk. The bad news; that's exactly what you've got to do. Keep it slow and gentle and avoid any steep inclines/declines (you'll want to swerve the stairs as well). This is just to slowly ease your muscles back into normal movement and help them to avoid freezing up.
5 minutes in an ice bath or cold water
A cold shower or hose-down will also do.
Brace yourself. This isn't going to be pleasant. But, these five torturous minutes will help your body to repair those Microtraumas that form in your muscles during prolonged, repetitive exercise. There's also a theory that it helps your body to flush toxins from the are and help avoid a buildup of lactic acid. It's up to you what you think of that one.
Never do this alone.
Stretch it out
You should wait a few hours before doing this. Some runners even leave it a full five hours. The theory is that this gives your muscles time to replenish their reserves of vitamins and minerals. Specific stretch routines should be tailored to you and help to support previously injured muscles and reflect the nature of the run you've just completed. A qualified coach will create a stretching routine for you. It shouldn't be too expensive (£20-£40) and is definitely a worthwhile investment.
Make sure you drink a lot through this entire process. Drinks with added electrolytes do great things to help you recover. You should also eat a good, nutritious meal after long periods of exercise.