The race has been run, and you’ve hit the finish line. But it’s not time to stop yet.
At the end of a marathon, many runners tend to come to a dead stop, heading straight for their cars. But it’s important to keep moving even after the run, and get your heart rate down by doing some basic breathing exercises and stretches.
I cannot emphasise enough the dangers of not cooling down. For starters, any cardio or high intensity activity increases the active muscles’ need for oxygenated blood. The muscles aid this heightened blood circulation process by contracting with more force around the blood vessels. This causes the blood to easily resist the forces of gravity and return quickly to the heart for re-oxygenation and re-circulation. When a person abruptly stops exercising, it impacts the amount of blood returning to the heart, causing a phenomenon called blood pooling. The muscles are no longer contracting against your blood vessels, and gravity causes the blood to pool in the lower extremities. When this occurs, you may feel faint or dizzy or experience a loss of consciousness.
In addition to this, the body produces a large amount of lactic acid which needs to be released through cool down exercises. Also, a short 15-20 minute routine relieves stress on the joints.
An ideal cool down routine includes stretches, including quadriceps and hamstrings, with rhythmic breathing for 15-30 seconds.
Apart from cooling down, I’d recommend participants enjoy the ebullience one witnesses at the end of the marathon, instead of running straight home for the shower. Taking a few photos at the venue might sound like corny advice from a fitness instructor, but these snapshots of conquering a challenge can serve as powerful motivational tools for any other tests that lie ahead.
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