Every runner, whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, is familiar with the terms “warm-up” and “cool down.” But what about the “warm-down”? Yes, that’s actually a thing, and if you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
A warm-down should take place after a hard workout is over, but before you cool-down. While working out, the body not only produces that lovely burning lactic acid, but also testosterone. Yup, we’ve got testosterone in us, ladies, but that’s a good thing.
According to Dr. Rebecca Breslow (you Salty readers might know her better as Garlic), testosterone can aid in promoting muscle growth. “Testosterone both stimulates production of new muscle protein, and also inhibits breakdown of existing protein; together this leads to an increase in muscle mass (hypertrophy).”
As runners, this is exactly what we want; however, if we immediately move from an intense workout into a cool-down session, we are essentially stopping that process, well, cold. “Testosterone is also beneficial in recovery,” says Dr. Darrin Bright of OhioHealth Max Sports and Medical Director for the Columbus Marathon. “We all know that we get faster or stronger by hard workouts. Testosterone can negate the effects of Cortisol (sometimes referred to as a stress hormone) and allow for faster recovery following hard workouts.”
If any of you are suddenly feeling uncomfortable with the thought that as female athletes we are producing this male-dominant hormone, rest assured this does not mean you will grow a mustache or have to join a men’s chorus as their new bass if you continue your training. Our bodies have already figured out how to regulate this hormonal production. What we want to do is continue to help promote that testosterone production in order to achieve the most effective workouts we can, hence completing a warm-down routine post run.
After your main workout, whether that’s a moderate or fast-paced run, hill repeats, or series of sprints, complete a warm-down workout to not only help flush out the lactic acid build-up, but to also keep that t-production going. A warm-down workout can include a variety of moves, but the most effective movements are going to be similar to the dynamic warm-up you completed before your run.
If your main workout entailed sprints, hill repeats, or fartleks, start your warm-down by moving into a steady, moderate-paced run. Every 200 yards or so, do a series of high knees, butt kicks, high kicks, and/or A-skips for about 20 yards. These moves will keep your joints lubricated, aid in stretching, and maintain testosterone production.
If your workout was a longer run, your warm-down should include short-burst movements. You can essentially do the opposite of the above by running a few hill repeats at about 65-75% of your workout pace, or make it fun by targeting reference points to fartlek (road signs and trees are great for this). If you just pounded out a run on the treadmill at the gym, hop onto the rower or the elliptical for your WD.
You can gauge how much of a warm down you need, but for a reference point, WD workouts can last anywhere from 5-15 minutes, depending on what exactly you’re doing. In a nutshell, do not skip this important and valuable step in your training. If you wouldn’t skip warming up, you shouldn’t skip warming down.
Stay tuned to Salty Running for the second installment of this piece on the cool-down, including lots of information on lactic acid, static stretching, and my personal favorite: rolling out the muscles using a variety of torture devices, err…accessories.