Life is busy. Most people can barely find time to work out, and if they do, they are probably trying to maximize their precious time with the quickest, fat-shredding, calorie-burning routine out there. This often means that people are skipping out on one of the most important parts of an active lifestyle: the cool down. Below is a breakdown of why everyone should cool down after a workout and how to do it.
Benefits of Cooling Down After a Workout
- Helps your muscles recover quicker
- Improves blood circulation
- Decreases muscle soreness
- Aids flexibility
- Helps prevent injury
How to Have a Proper Cool Down –
Step 1: Lower your heart rate slowly
If you have been exercising at a high heart rate with an anaerobic activity (ex. running, walking, swimming, biking, circuit training, etc.), you will need to slowly get your heart rate back to its resting state. To return slowly and safely to your resting heart rate, you should continue moving, but at a lower intensity. For example, if you are running at 7 mph, consider decreasing your running pace every thirty seconds by a rate of .5mph until your heart rate has slowed and your breathing appears normal again. This slower approach might seem tedious, but If you stop any cardiovascular activity too suddenly, you are more likely to feel dizzy or lightheaded and increase your chances of fainting.
Step 2: Stretch
Stretching sometimes seems overwhelming because there are so many muscles in the human body; where do we start? It is best to focus on stretching whatever sections you have just been using at the gym. So, if you have done a lot of push-ups or bench presses, you will want to focus on your upper body (ex. deltoids, pectorals, biceps, triceps, etc.). The same rule applies if you have just spent 30 minutes on the bike; with that workout, you would want to spend at least 10 minutes stretching your major lower body muscle groups like hamstrings, quadriceps and calves.
General Tips for Stretching:
Your cool down should include 5-8 static stretches. While stretching should be slightly uncomfortable, you should not feel pain while you are stretching. Stretch as far as you can while making sure that you are not bouncing while holding the position. Each individual stretch should be held for at least 30 seconds.
Step 3: Re-Fuel
An often overlooked part of the cool down process is refueling. To refuel, both water and food are important. Stay away from sports drinks, sodas or juices (because of the high amounts of simple sugars), and opt for water or a protein shake instead. A few other good post work-out options are Greek yogurt, a slice of toast with peanut butter, nuts, hard boiled eggs, or whole-grain cereal.
If you are unfamiliar with which stretches to use for each muscle group, or have additional questions about a proper cool down, you can contact our office and schedule a consultation with the Doctor.