How to Properly Cool Down After a Workout and Why It Is Important
Everyone realizes the importance of warming up before a workout. But how many of you know why a cool down is just as necessary? It is an often-overlooked aspect of exercise which if ignored can negatively affect your health. In fact, many personal trainers believe that cooling down after an intense session may be just as significant as the workout itself. In this blog post, we want to draw your attention to the importance of cooling down and how to do it properly. Have a look.
Cool Down After a Workout: Why It Is Important and How to Do It
Meaning of Cool Down
A cool down is an essential part of a workout and can last from three to 10 minutes. Its purpose is to lower the heart rate, body temperature and breathing rate to pre-exercise levels. It begins with reducing the intensity of your activity. For example, walking at the end of your jog.
Importance of Cool Down
An intense session can cause your blood vessels to expand and bring increased blood flow to your legs and feet. If there is a sudden stop in physical activity, it can cause blood to pool in your legs and your blood pressure to drop. If your heart rate slows too quickly, it can lead to dizziness. With a cool down, you give the blood a chance to re-circulate. This reduces the risk of fainting which tends to happen after strenuous exercise.
Benefits of Cool Down
Apart from reducing the chances of dizziness or fainting, a cool down has several benefits including:
- Preparing your muscles for the next workout session
- Reducing muscle soreness and stiffness
- Removing the waste products from your body (like lactic acid) that can build up during an intense physical activity
- Reducing cramping
Components of a Proper Cool Down
The way you cool down after a workout depends on the type of exercise you are doing. Generally, most cool downs include slower, gentler movements and stretching exercises. Here’s how you can do it.
- You probably want to hop in the shower immediately after your workout. Resist this temptation and cool down first. Stretch for at least 10 minutes or until your heart rate slows and you get back to a comfortable state.
- Once it does slow, hit the showers. Try alternating between hot and cold showers. Cold showers increase blood circulation and maintain ideal body temperature, whereas hot showers effectively relieve body tension and can soothe muscle fatigue.
- Every time you exercise, you sweat, thus expending water. That’s why to cool down you need to replenish water supplies. This helps decrease muscle soreness and increase strength and flexibility. So, make sure you keep yourself hydrated after intense physical activity by consuming plenty of fluids.
- In addition to hydrating your body inside, you should also hydrate it outside. Apply a skin-cooling lotion that contains cooling properties like menthol for a soothing effect.
- Get a massage to relieve the stress you put on your muscles during the workout. This is a great way to break up knots and/or adhesions. Just make sure the pressure is not too deep or heavy as it could damage your already vulnerable muscles.
- Since you have burned a lot of calories, you will likely be hungry. Instead of munching on nutrition-free junk food, drink a protein shake. But do this 15 to 30 minutes after the workout, when your metabolic window is open. This puts carbohydrates and proteins back into your muscles, thus rebuilding them and making them stronger. If protein shakes are not your thing, consult your personal trainer for alternatives.
Cool Down Stretches to Try
1) Standing Toe Touch
The standing toe touch incorporates subtle ab work and is a great stretch for the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. It helps release tightness and increases your range of motion. Here’s how to incorporate standing toe touches into your cool down routine.
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart
- Swing your right leg up and touch your left hand to your right toes
- Keep your chest up while doing this
- Return to the standing position and repeat with your left leg, touching your right hand to your left toes
- Repeat at least 10 times
2) Figure 4 Stretch
This stretch opens the hips and release the glutes. It helps strengthen quadriceps, ankle and foot muscles while relieving lower back tension. Here are the steps to this stretch.
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor
- Lift your left leg and cross your left ankle over the right knee
- Put your hands around your right leg to meet under the thigh
- Keep your torso pressed against the floor while drawing the right thigh towards you
- Gently press your left knee away from you, using your left elbow as you draw your right thigh in closer
- Hold this position for 30 seconds
- Deepen the stretch with every exhale and switch sides
3) Child’s Pose
This stretching exercise is for your shins, knees, feet, ankles, chest and head. Here’s how to do it.
- Sit back on your heels with your knees out wide
- Bend forward at hips and lower your chest between your thighs
- Rest your forehead on the ground
- Try to lengthen your spine by extending through the crown of your head and tailbone
- Extend your arms and place your palms on the ground
- Hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute
Cooling down plays a vital role in getting your body back to a resting and comfortable state, as well as reducing the risk of injury. It can be anything after a workout including walking at a moderate pace, sitting down with a roller, stretching or swimming a few laps. These gentle movements and light exercises will help you take advantage of your cool down and keep your body healthy. To learn more about proper cool down activities, consult your fitness trainer or your in-home personal trainer.