Cool Down – Rule of Fitness #9

Is a cool down really that important?

A cool down period is an often overlooked or omitted part of your workout. In a world where everyone is crunched for time, a cool down is likely to be the first thing cut from a workout. I suspect that everyone, myself included, is guilty of going straight from the gym floor to the shower. It’s easy to say “I don’t have the time”, and trainers everywhere cringe when they hear it. Your workout should include time for a warm up and a cool down, as they are both essential parts of all exercise programs.  There’s solid scientific reasons why you need to follow this rule of fitness.

Prevention of soreness…

How many people joke about soreness after a hard workout? There’s got to be hundreds of memes about leg day on the internet. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the scientific name for the soreness that comes on after exercise, due to microtears in the muscle fiber. DOMS is a normal part of exercise, and a certain amount is to be expected. However, it can decrease by utilizing a proper cool down and stretch after your workout. Cooling down can increase blood flow to your muscles after strength training, which science has shown to cause a significant decrease in DOMS. Try it out, and notice how the leg day jokes are quite so applicable!

Prevention of blood pooling…

When you exercise, your heart rate is up, carrying that oxygenated blood throughout your working muscles. The contraction of those muscles helps return that blood to the heart from your body’s extremities for re-oxygenation. If you go straight from high activity, performing a lot of work, to low activity and less work, the muscles are no longer working as hard. When exercise stops abruptly, blood can pool in the lower extremities of the body. This can cause the blood to slow its return to the heart, and beyond that, the brain. When blood movement slows down, lightheadedness, dizziness, and fainting can occur, which can lead to a post workout injury in the locker room. Take time after your workout to cool down: let your heart rate come down slowly, allow your body time to readjust to a lighter workload.

Prevention of injury…

A great deal of injury prevention takes place during your cool down. After your warm up and workout, your muscles are warm and pliable. This is the best time to take advantage of a post cool down stretch, to improve flexibility and range of motion.  Inflexibility can be a leading cause of injuries like lower back pain, due to tight hamstrings or hip flexors. Using the time after your workout to cool down properly and stretch goes a long way towards preventing future injury.

Prevention of stress…

Another thing that proper cool down and stretch does for you is stress relief.  Who couldn’t use more of that? Through activity and exercise, you are already taking care of your body and your mind. Exercise releases those “feel good” endorphins that can lift spirits after a workout. Taking the time for a cool down and stretch allows your body to return to a resting, balanced state. This state allows your mind to take full advantage of those endorphins. I personally like to incorporate a couple yoga poses into my cooldown and stretch, take the time to really focus on my breathing, and allow my mind to relax and expand. After that, I feel ready to conquer the world!

It IS that important!

So how do you cool down the body properly after a great workout?  Your cool down should fill the last five to fifteen minutes of your workout time. It should incorporate light cardiovascular activity, like walking on the treadmill or easy cycling on the bike. It should also incorporate static stretching for the muscle groups that you focused on in the workout. Those stretches should last for at least 30 seconds. Factor in the time for a cool down next time you work out, and see how your body responds!

 

 

 

Jessica

I'm Jessica, one of the founders and owners of True Grit Fitness. I'm a workout junkie and health nut who happens to be a certified personal trainer through ACE. I love lifting weights and cooking healthy versions of favorite foods. In my other job, I work on offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico as a licensed mariner. I'm also a wife, a stepmom, a mom to furbabies, and a former officer in the USCG Reserve. I love everything about the great outdoors, I'm a certified bookworm, and I love creating and crafting. Welcome to my corner!