So many times I see people rushing through the final part of their workout or completely failing to do it and I really can't stress to my clients enough about the benefits of ensuring you cool down and stretch properly.
The cool-down is an important but often undervalued and overlooked part of a safe and effective training session. Essentially the cool-down is the reverse of the warm-up. It provides your body and mind with a gradual transition from the exercising state to a resting state. Here are some key benefits to cooling down properly:
Return to resting levels - The cool-down provides a gradual return of your blood pressure and heart rate to near resting levels. It helps to maintain an adequate venous return. This prevents post-exercise blood pooling, hypotension and dizziness.
Remove lactic acid and reduce temperature - A cool-down speeds up the removal of lactic acid and lowers the level of catecholamines (adrenaline) in the blood. Cool-downs literally help you to cool-down by allowing the dissipation of body heat. They also help to reduce the risk of suffering cardiovascular complications.
Reduce muscle soreness - Muscle soreness is reduced by a cool-down and it provides you with the opportunity to regain mental and emotional balance after the stress of exercise. You also have an opportunity to reflect on the training session that you have just finished.
The cool-down is just as important as the warm-up. Cooling down is achieved by gradually reducing the intensity of the exercise. For example, you may decrease the intensity of your workload by slowing down from running to jogging and from jogging to walking, finalised by some post workout stretches.
How to cool down properly:
You should usually reduce your exercise intensity over a period of 5 minutes and then follow this with about 5 minutes of stretching. Use a variety of different stretches normally based on what you have worked in your main session. i.e - If you trained legs, the focus would be on stretching out different muscles in the legs. Try to follow a stand - sit - lie - sit - stand format so that you are gradually bringing yourself down to the floor and then back up to standing in a gentle manner and to prevent any dizziness.
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