I tried these three cool-down stretches to boost recovery, and my leg muscles feel great

It didn't take long, but this short cool-down helped my legs recover after my run and weekly strength workout

Woman running outside in the sunshine
(Image credit: Future)

Cool-down stretches lengthen your muscles, boosting your flexibility and reducing your risk of injury. I know this, yet I still end up skipping them at the end of my run or gym session. 

To change this, I've started making warm-ups and post-workout stretches a non-negotiable part of my training (find out what happened when I tried this three-move running warm-up to see how it would effect my performance).

As a runner, my legs are definitely the primary focus of my exercise routine — I run five times a week and head to the gym for a leg-focused strength training session too — so I figured this lower-body cool-down from trainer Lauren Pak was worth a shot.

All I needed to give it a go was a foam roller, a yoga mat and a wall to lean against, and I liked it so much I did it twice: once after a run and again after my leg workout at the gym. 

Watch the video below to see the routine in full, or read on to find out how I got on. 

Watch Lauren Pak's three-move cool down


♬ original sound - Jason and Lauren

I love that this routine only has three moves; it takes just three minutes, so I really had no excuse not to cool down! 

I enjoyed the foam rolling at the start too. This is something I've tried before, and words can't quite explain the odd cocktail of pain and pleasure it gives as you roll out your sore and tight muscles. 

For the calf stretches, I held the full 20 seconds on each leg in both the locked out knee and bent knee positions. During this I could feel my calf muscles being lengthened after a tough workout. 

Finally, the foot to toe extensions were a stretch I didn't expect to enjoy. Both after a three mile run and a 30-minute lower-body workout, this stretch released muscle tension I didn't know I had — it will definitely be a regular part of my cool-down routine in the future. 

How should you cool down?

Stretches can take two forms, dynamic and static. As the name suggests, dynamic stretches are movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion, usually mimicking an exercise or sport. 

Static stretches, on the other hand, involve holding a position to lengthen a muscle. 

Dynamic stretches are great for priming your body for exercise, but as far as cool-downs are concerned, static stretches are the way forward. 

Cool-downs are all part of helping your body recover properly. Another aspect of recovery is protein intake. Protein helps to repair the tiny tears in your muscle that occur after an intense workout. You can get protein through food sources or protein drinks like those made with the best protein powders for weight loss.

Lois Mackenzie
Fitness Writer

Lois Mackenzie is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering strength training workouts with weights, accessible ways to stay active at home, and training routines for runners. She joined the team from Newsquest Media Group, where she was a senior sports, trends, and lifestyle reporter. She is a dedicated runner, having just completed her first marathon, and an advocate for spending time outdoors, whether on a walk, taking a long run, or swimming in the sea. 

Lois holds a Master's degree in Digital Journalism, and has written for Good Health, Wellbeing & The Great Outdoors, Metro.co.uk, and Newsquest Media Group, where her reporting was published in over 200 local newspapers.