Health & Wellness
September 18, 2017

How To Cool Down from A Workout

Everyone knows the importance of keeping fit, particularly as we creep inexorably towards middle age and beyond. Yet with a busy work schedule and family commitments, maintaining a good fitness regime is sometimes easier said than done. All too often, we set out with the best intentions, only to let things slip after a few days.

This can lead to a variety of problems. The body likes routine, but the tendency if we are not careful is to have a regular workout for a few days running, then miss a day or two, and then do something extra-strenuous the next day to try to “make up” for the days that we missed.

Put that way, you just know that it is likely to end with soreness at best and some significant muscle damage at worst.

A regular routine

“Little and often” are great watchwords in all manner of things, and the philosophy is definitely a good one to follow with your fitness regime. We are all different, so it is down to you to decide when and where works best, but if you are an early riser, there is no better way to get the day off to a good start.

The right gear is the best idea

Whether you are going for an early morning run, doing some circuits at the gym, or covering some miles on your exercise bike, you are likely to come to grief sooner or later if you don’t have the right clothing for the task at hand. Comfortable, properly fitting shoes and compression shorts could just save the day, which is why compression shorts and other compression fit clothing is so popular with most professional athletes.

Warming up and cooling down

Most of us remember having it drilled into us as kids to do some stretching exercises before we start any serious physical activity, and the advice remains as relevant, or even more so, as we get older. Yet the flip side is just as important but is often overlooked.

After strenuous activity, your breathing, heart rate, and temperature need to return to normal, and by managing this process through a cooldown routine, you are less likely to encounter discomfort and side-effects such as muscle cramps, soreness, and dizziness.

You will also reduce the risk of lactic acidosis, a particularly unpleasant experience that is brought about by the buildup of lactic acid during exercise. Cooling down helps to disperse this, ensuring that your workout leaves you feeling better, not worse.

A good-quality cooldown will take around ten minutes in total, but if that is not possible, remember that anything is better than nothing. Ideally, you should look to devote five minutes to reduced intensity activity, and then another five minutes to a stretching routine.

Reduced intensity

Whatever you are doing, don’t just stop instantly. Perform the final five minutes at a lower intensity and focus on getting your breathing and heart rate back down by taking deeper breaths.

Stretching 

There are many stretching routines out there, but here are some that many professional athletes swear by for cooling down:

1. Straight arms

Adopt a standing or seated position with back straight and shoulders back.

Reach behind and clasp both your hands together.

Raise your hands up toward your head as far as you can.

2. Lunge with side stretch

Adopt a lunge position, aligning your front knee over your foot and extending your back leg behind you.

Raise your opposite arm across your head, and then lean to the side.

Oppose and repeat.

3. Lunge with quad stretch

Adopt a lunge position, aligning your front knee over your foot and extending your back leg behind you.

Lower your back knee right to the ground.

Reach back and grasp your ankle, pulling forward to stretch.

Oppose and repeat.

4. Standing hamstring stretch

Place your left leg on a box or support, keeping it straight with the toes pointed up.

Bend at your hips and reach out for your left foot.

Bend at your waist, keeping the back straight while stretching.

Oppose and repeat.

5. Pigeon pose

From the floor, cross your left knee in front of you, keeping the right leg straight behind you.

Placing both hands on the floor in front of you, gradually lower your upper body as far as possible.

Oppose and repeat.

Each of these stretches only needs to take a minute, and will help ensure that your workout is a rewarding experience that leaves you refreshed and looking forward to the next one.

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