Are you new to running? Most newbie runners know how important it is to take care of their muscles and stretch before hitting the track. But what newbie runners might not know is that stretching after their run is just as important as stretching before. This is called a cool down, which you can think of as the opposite of a warm-up.
According to Healthline, stretching out your muscles immediately post-workout can help return your heart rate back to normal and potentially help reduce lactic acid buildup. It will also help bring down your blood pressure and promote circulation, which helps for getting rid of that dizzy feeling you might get post-workout. All of these benefits will help muscle stiffness and prevent strains, tears, or inflammation post-workout.
Making the Most of Your Routine
One important piece of advice for newbie runners is that it’s not about how you stretch, but what you stretch. Doing the same old stretch routine can help, but it’s best if you are aware of the basic muscle groups and how to target them. That way, you can customize your warm-up or cool-down routine to target which muscles need the most help.
Exercising with resistance bands is a great way to do this. Having a few resistance bands around will allow you to gently stretch a muscle without doing too much. Stretching with just your own body weight, however, could mean putting too much pressure and potentially injuring yourself. For other groups that need more in-depth stretching, you can switch to a stronger resistance and work them out without injuring other muscle groups.
Back to Basics
Running, at its core, is a basic sport that the human body was engineered to excel at. Priming ourselves to have a great run is quite simple. Easing your muscles in and out of a workout will help reduce the cardiovascular shock on your body. One tip that marathon runners and Olympians swear by is relying on the simple healing properties of warmth and cold. An ice pack (or, if you’re brave enough, an ice bath) will help soothe inflammation and muscle soreness post-workout.
A hot shower before your run, conversely, can help loosen your muscles and prevent shock. If you ever tune into the Olympics, you’ll notice some swimmers sitting in warm water pools or taking warm showers before their relay for this very reason. You’ll also see both short and long-distance runners doing slow warm-up laps around the track to help raise their heart rates and get their muscles warm. When in doubt, just remember to never over-exert yourself. If you do get a strained muscle (which is inevitable for us all), remember to elevate and alternate cold and hot compresses.
Slow and steady wins the race, and by taking care of your muscles, you’ll prevent serious and disrupting injuries. Happy running!