Even though most of us who exercise don’t warm up before we start, we are aware of what warming up is. But, how many of us know about cooling down? Just like the importance of warming up (read my post here), cooling down is a very important part of your workout. Your decision regarding cooling down will directly impact how you feel after your workout, be it immediately, or days later.
Why cool down?
Think of your body as your car, it allows you to move from here to there. Your driving along at 110 km/h. Would you stop your car suddenly, applying maximum pressure to your brakes, or do you gradually slow down, gently applying the brakes? Have you ever had to apply your brakes really hard, either to avoid a collision, or for another reason? Do your brakes work the same afterwards? I know myself when I have had to stop suddenly, the brakes ended heating up, and warping the brake rotors. After that, my brakes pulsed whenever applied. The same goes for your body. Working really hard then stopping suddenly puts unneeded strain on your body. This may cause problems immediately, or, years later.
The main benefits of cooling down are to prevent blood pooling, and to gently bring your heart rate back down to a reasonable level. Think about it, you have just completed an intense Tabata session, your heart rate as high as 90 -95% of your max. The Tabata session was comprised of movements that primarily involved your leg muscles, exercises such as lunges, burpees. A lot of blood needed to go to those muscles to bring oxygen to them, and to take away waste product, lactic acid as an example. If you suddenly stop, your blood pressure will also suddenly drop, and you could get very dizzy. Not something you want to happen.
Why don’t we cool down?
After an intense workout like this, the body, or mind, doesn’t want to do anything, so the impulse is to lie down and catch your breath, or just not do anything. It was a tough workout! I’m just going to lie here for a few minutes! Don’t do it! Resist the urge to stop and do nothing. Instead, walk around, keep your limbs moving and let your heart rate return back to a normal rate slowly, and allow the blood to flow from your muscles, taking away that waste.
Cooling down will help reduce muscle soreness after a workout. By not letting the blood pool in your muscles, cooling down allows the blood to continue to flow, taking away the waste material, such as lactic acid, and also to supply nutrients to those muscles, assisting in growth and repair.
How to cool down
Move! Walk around moving your arms more than you normally would when walking. This helps the blood circulating to remove waste, and to provide the nutrients needed to repair the muscles you just trained. Do this for 3 to 5 minutes. Do this before you finish off your workout with your stretching routine.
So do me a favour, and cool down at the end of your workout. You’ll thank me later for it I’m sure.