I hear it every single day- “I don’t have time” or “I’m young, I will bounce back fast”. These excuses are used when it comes to cooling down after a workout. After all, it is only the meat in between the warmup and cool down that matters, right? However, by skipping the cool down you are actually doing yourself a disservice.
You are negatively affecting the results from all the hard work you put in. Doing a cool down after each workout can help decrease the chance of injury and also increase performance and recovery post workout.
A cool down consists of doing movements at a slower, lower intensity pace for about 10 minutes. After a workout, your heart rate is still elevated above what your normal heart rate is. If your heart rate is slowed down too quickly after a workout, this could lead to feeling ill. A slow, progressive cool down is ideal for helping to prevent this from happening.
Benefits of a cool down
- Recovery. Lactic acid builds up in the muscles after a workout. Properly cooling down can help reduce this build up to help speed up recovery.
- Reducing DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). This is the soreness that is usually felt two days after you complete a workout. Cooling down after a workout can help to decrease this soreness, allowing you to bounce back and get back into the gym even faster.
Harmful effects of not cooling down
- Increase in Injury. About 30% of injuries are muscle injuries. This is a good indicator that proper warmups and cool downs are important to help prevent this from happening.
- Blood Pooling. Stopping a workout without cooling down can cause the muscles to stop contracting like they were just doing. This will lead to blood pooling in the distal extremities because there is not enough pressure to pump it back to the heart. This can then lead to feeling ill or passing out.
Tips for cooling down
- Start with a brisk walk around the neighborhood, progressively getting slower, to help reduce your heart rate after a workout.
- Stretch each body part for 10-30 seconds in a static hold.
- Box breathing. This is a four second inhale followed by a four second hold at the top of that inhale. Then, a four second exhale, followed by a four second hold at the bottom of that exhale. This will help to slow down your heart rate after a workout.
- Take a couple of minutes and foam roll each body part.
Before rushing out of the gym post workout next time, think of the potential medical bills that can come from an injury which would have been prevented with a ten minute cool down. Not only are you giving up that healing downtime, you aren’t going to be able to perform at your next workout better or stronger. You are preventing yourself from reaping all of the benefits from your workout. Take the extra ten minutes after a workout and let your body recover.