When I began running I didn't want to take another step after a run. I still feel this way after a race or endurance event. Unfortunately, when I began running I also found that my calves hurt every single day! I asked my daughter how long before I wasn't sore all the time. Having competed in high school she surmised that as long as I was pushing myself, I would probably always be sore. I think she was trying to avoid saying, "Mom, you're just old and it might always hurt."
I live a little less than a half mile from the local high school track. Someone convinced me to meet them there for a run. I felt a bit silly driving that distance (I drive if I am running late) and decided to walk. This meant I would also need to walk home after the workout. I soon discovered that my legs were no longer as tired and achy the following day.
Latest research does not blame muscle soreness on lactic acid buildup, so I am not going to claim that cooling down reduces the buildup. Rather, a cool down walk seems to relax muscles that have been working hard for several miles - or several hundred meters if you are just beginning. It allows breathing to slow to normal rates and provides time for reflection and positive self talk.
Think for a minute about a stress headache or tension in your shoulder muscles from stress. If left alone there is a great opportunity for soreness the following day. Compare a cool down after your run to a shoulder or neck massage that works to relax those muscles. Relaxed muscles are less likely to become sore. Perhaps I should say, relaxed muscles are likely to become LESS sore. Like I said - running hurts!
A cool down after a run is only one of the many recovery practices that will lessen your fatigue or soreness, but it's one of the most important so take your time and bask in the beauty of accomplishment. Your calves will thank you!
Do you have a recovery tip that helps keep you healthy and on the move? Please share it in the comments below.
More recovery tips will follow. In the meantime ...
- Carol aka Running Granny Green
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Running Granny Green encourages women, especially grandmothers, to gain greater fitness by providing tips and inspiration to insure long years of joyful grand-parenting. The cookie recipes are a bonus!