What is the right way to cool down at the end of a hard session. Two articles worth reading

Blood lactate clearance during active recovery after an intense running bout depends on the intensity of the active recovery

Blood lactate removal during recovery at various intensities below the individual anaerobic threshold in triathletes.

The first article compares the lactate clearance rate for different intensity of cool downs. The experiment was a 10 minute warm up, then a 5 minute test at 90% of VO2Max, then straight into one of the cool down scenarios ranging from passive to 100% of LT power for 32 minutes with lactate tests performed during the cool down.

Here is the key graph.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 11.28.12 AM

It shows that a cooldown at 60% or greater of LT power clears lactate significantly faster than passive or 40% of LT power.  LT power is about the power that can be sustained for a 30 minute time trial.  For me on the erg, right now, LT is probably around 250W, so a cooldown power greater than 0.6*250 = 150W (2:12.6 pace).

The second paper is based on triathletes.  The protocol here was very similar.  A 3 minute warmup, followed by a 6 minute test at about 90% VO2Max, then straight into the different cool down scenarios.  This paper defines the cool down intensity in terms of above, at or below the IVT (Individual Ventilatory Threshold), basically an intensity where your breathing gets very regular and deep.  This was all a bit too mumbo-jumbo-ish for me, but luckily they included a handy translation table to get from their weird units to % of VO2max.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 11.40.23 AM

The findings were that the lower intensity IVT(-50%delT) provided optimal lactate clearance.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 11.43.23 AM

So, if you use 2K power as a rough equivalent to VO2Max power, then you can come up with “real” numbers to use for comparison.  My current 2K is probably around a 6:50, which is 1:42.5 pace and 325W.  So, these intensities would be:

  • 67% * 325 = 218
  • 59% * 325 = 192
  • 51% * 325 = 166

So, this paper says 166W, which is a 2:08.2 pace

So put it together, these two papers say that I should go faster than 2:12.6 and no faster than 2:08.2.  I think 2:10 is probably a good pace for my cool downs based on my current fitness level.

4 thoughts on “What is the right way to cool down at the end of a hard session. Two articles worth reading

  1. sanderroosendaal says:

    After a full out session I can’t do anything else than 2:30 for a minute or so. Then I can do anything between 2:10 and 2:18. But asking me to do the first 30 strokes below 2:20 would be very cruel. How long was the rest between exercise and cooling down in the studies?

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      I agree with you. I can’t do anything but paddle until I catch my breath a little. The studies say they went straight from exercise to cool down.

      But the issue I have with these experiments is the test is too short to really mimic a real hard interval session. It was 5′ or 6′ at 90% of 2k power. I’d like to see something like 4 intervals like that, and then a cool down.

      I think I’ll stick to my happy ending cool downs.


  2. bendredman says:

    Interesting! Thanks for that, that’s higher intensity than I normally cool down at (2:20 ish).

    Looks like they took a latate reading straight after the workout before the cooldown, so that must be about 30 strokes worth of doing nothing.


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