A blog by runners. For runners.

Fact or fiction: runners need to warm up and cool down

fact-or-fiction-warmup-cooldownOften the training plans you find online or in books come with detailed sections on how to perform each of the varied training sessions. I am guilty of only skimming these paragraphs and focusing mostly on the mileage dictated in the plan. But quality runs — tempo, hills, track repeats, etc. — usually entail some warming up miles and, again, some slower slogging for a cool down.

Common sense tells me taking the extra few minutes to get in and out of activity is a good use of my time. So, why aren’t I doing it? I don’t really know. Is it OK to skip the slow stuff and only devour the meaty middle of the workout?

Let’s examine a few points.

First off, in most of the information I surveyed, it’s the cool down the vast majority of us are choosing to skip. That’s probably because it’s physically difficult to get the body moving from 0 to 60 MPH (or maybe in our case from 0 to 7 MPH). So, whether by necessity or habit, a lot of us have some form of a warm up whether we realize it or not — even if it’s only a couple minutes of easy jogging.

The cool down is another matter entirely. Think of all those hard workouts when you just want to be done. Think of that last 10K when you sprinted across the finish line only to walk directly over to the refreshments tent, grab a bottled water, and gab about your new PR. It’s like putting the brakes on at top speed. Just think about the whiplash!

Cooling down is important because it helps regulate blood flow” after hard efforts. And for some, it provides psychological benefits. A ritual, if you will.  If you’re not into marking miles at slowed effort, consider jogging for 5 to 10 minutes after a quality session. And if you’re doing some other exercise (from walking to biking and beyond), it’s a good idea to follow this same 5-10 minute “rule”.

Furthermore, warming up and cooling down — if for no other benefit — are important to help athletes prevent injury and muscle strain. You wouldn’t start your car and ram down the road every single day and not expect to have a hefty mechanic bill, right? You might even need a new car. Well, it’s very similar. You wouldn’t want to treat your body that way either — because we can’t really trade yourself in for a newer model, right?

I am certainly guilty of not making time to ease my body in and out of activity, so I think I could get smarter, or at least more creative, about the whole process. Maybe even in baby steps. For example, I might start walking to the top of my block before a workout. Or walking to the gym to get my blood pumping. And at the end of a quality session, I might finish with a brisk walk around the block. Or perhaps time a 5 minute jog. Or even drop back to the house and grab some mail to walk to the mailbox.

How important is the warmup and cool down in your exercise routine?

Written by  Ashley Marcin.