Why you need to cool down post workout. A few weeks ago, we talked about the importance of doing a proper warm up, but what about cooling down after a workout? Is that just as important or can you hop off a cardio machine or drop your weights and just go about your day? Here’s the thing, a simple walk won’t really cut it. Just like in a warmup, you want to move your body in multiple plains of motion that mimic your workout.
WHY YOU NEED TO COOL DOWN POST WORKOUT
The Why. A warmup is designed to prepare your body for strenuous movement while a cool down is necessary for your body to return to its pre-workout levels and to facilitate a more effective recovery, as well as helping to keep injuries at bay. Think of it this way, when you are vigorously working out, micro tears appear in your muscles and waste, like lactic acid, starts to build up. This is totally normal because your heart rate is also elevated and pumping extra blood to your muscles. Your blood carries nutrients and oxygen to keep those muscles going. When you stop exercising, suddenly your heart rate drops, your blood begins to pool and doesn’t get re-oxygenated as quickly. So in effect, what you are trying to do with a cool down is to slow this process down and allow your heart rate and circulation to decrease slowly.
Cardio. Although it’s not all you should do, taking a slow walk post workout is a great start. If you were doing a short, higher intensity workout then aim to walk for roughly 5 minutes. If you were doing a longer workout then aim for about 10 minutes of a light jog and then a walk. Just remember to focus on slowing down your breathing. I like to inhale with my nose for 2 counts and exhale through my mouth for two counts to get my heart rate back to normal.
Self massage. This is the moment when I personally like to pull out my foam roller to work out the kinks in my muscles. If I’ve gone for a run then I’ll pay particular attention to my IT band and quadriceps.
Static stretch. Now that your muscles are optimally prepared, it’s time for a long luxurious static stretching session as opposed to a dynamic one that you would do pre-workout. You’ll want to focus on the muscles that you just used throughout your workout, but an all over stretch is also a good idea. Since you are warmed up, you can aim to hold these stretches for 30 seconds and even up to a minute for the larger muscle groups like your hamstrings, quads and glutes. Just focus on relaxing your body to get the most out of them.
Roll down. I like to start with this stretch as it helps get the kinks out of my lower back and hamstrings. Starting with the top of your head, roll your body down until your hands touch the floor (or if you can do that then place your hands on a block). Watch that you aren’t rolling back onto your heels and keep your weight more on your toes. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and then slowly roll back up and feel your spine stacking so that feel taller then when you started.
Some stretches you can do. These are very classic and some of my favourites, but whatever stretch works and whatever stretch you know your body needs, is great!
Hamstrings. Lying down and sitting up. First start by lying on your back, place your right foot in a band or yoga strap. Gently pull your leg up toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch and hold for 30 or more seconds. If you are fairly flexible then lengthen your left leg on the floor. The other option is to keep your left knee bent while you stretch your right leg up to the ceiling.
The second part of this stretch is to do it sitting up with your legs reaching out in front you. Feel like you are pressing your hamstrings into the floor as you slowly try to fold your body in half. Rather than just bending your torso, aim to get your chin to your ankles (don’t worry, this won’t actually happen, but it puts you into a more correct position). This stretch is an excellent one to do because it not only lengthens your hamstrings, but it also helps to stretch your glutes and lower back at the same time.
Quadriceps. Lying on your side (legs stacked), bend your top knee and gently pull your heel toward your glutes. Don’t arch your back and keep your pelvis in a neutral position. You should also feel this stretch in your hip flexors (the front of your hips). This stretch can also be done while lying on your stomach or even standing up. Chose the one that feels best for you.
Glutes. Lying on your back place your right foot on the floor and cross your left ankle over your right thigh. With your left hand reaching between your legs, pull them toward you. If you don’t have the flexibility to hold this pose, simply place your right foot on a wall at a 90 degree angle to the floor.
Hips. Sitting up with the soles of your feet together, hold your ankles while placing your elbows on your knees. Gently push your knees down and try to place your chin on your feet. Hold for 30+ seconds.
Lunge with a twist. Start in a deep lunge position with your hands on either side of your front leg. Hold for about 20 seconds and then bring both hands to the inner side of your leg. If you can, lower your elbows (or chest) to the floor. Your knee might open to the side a bit and that’s okay. Hold for another 20+ seconds and don’t forget to breathe.
Do you take time to cool down properly after a workout?
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