How important is the cool down after your workout? or race?
I wrote about the importance of the warm up earlier.
Nowadays, for me, it’s the long walk to the weight room or locker room that will suffice. That is, after I drink my post workout protein shake.
If I race a 400m, I’ll just jog 1 lap after putting on my sweats, very slowly, just to “flush out the lactate” as they say. That takes about 2-3 minutes.
Back in the 1980’s, there was an experiment (citation needed!) where they had lab mice run to exhaustion, then inject radioactive lactate (or lactic acid) with carbon as the marker. Sure enough, the radioactive carbon was mostly found in CO2, meaning aerobic exercise was the best way to get rid of lactate. (Yes, mice were probably harmed in the process. Sorry guys!)
So I thought the best cool down was a light or easy jog, or brisk walking. Or just walk.
I need to find that research paper. That was 1986!
The problem is a lack of conclusive evidence on whether or not you should do a cool down.
Reasons to Do a Cool Down
First, it depends if your race (or event, or sport) was a 60m or a 400m. Then you ask:
- Are you racing later in the day?
- Are you racing tomorrow?
- Are you trying to prevent injuries? cramps? soreness?
- Are you trying to induce recovery & regeneration?
If you watch NHL, you’ll see hockey players go on a stationary bike after the game, usually in their locker rooms or treatment rooms. But the longest shift is usually 45 seconds. What’s your 45? It’s not to clear lactate.
If you feel you need a cool down to improve recovery and start regeneration, then find an exercise for it.
There is no proof that doing NO cool down will give you a cramp, soreness, decrease performance, or increase injuries.
For me, with my track workouts every second or third day, I don’t do a cool down other than a long walk. On lactate sessions, I do jog 400m at a very easy pace, but it’s more like a shuffle.
But If I’m running back-to-back races, like I did in EMACs Pescara, then it wouldn’t hurt to jog 1 or 2 laps on grass very easily. Some people feel barefoot is best for proprioception, but that depends on the state of your grass field! The running speed should be easy enough to hold a conversation. If you can’t speak, then you are going too fast.
I’m not saying you should or should not do a cool down, but you need to get your body back to ‘normal’ after a high heart rate, high lactate, and high body temperature effort.