The Importance of Cooling Down After a Workout
It’s understandable that you might not feel like doing a cool down after a rigorous exercise session. After all, you’re probably exhausted enough that you just feel like getting straight into the shower or slipping into a spa. However, according to the Australian Sports Commission cooling down is a vital part of any exercise session, and just as important as warming up for preventing injuries.
The type of cool down exercises you do will depend on what type of physical activity you performed, but as a general rule you should cool down for at least five minutes.
A very light jog for a few minutes is a good way to gradually reduce your heart rate and remove lactic acid from your muscles, allowing your muscles to recover and repair themselves before your next workout. This should be followed by static stretches, which are stretches performed in a stationary position where you elongate your muscles to the point of resistance for about 15 seconds.
Static stretching can increase flexibility and mobility, and even more importantly, reduce the risk of injury. Make sure you isolate the muscles that you worked during your exercise session.
It is also important to rehydrate after your workout as well to replenish fluids lost through sweating. To find out how much fluid you have lost through training, weigh yourself before your workout and also afterwards. The amount in kilos you have lost is directly the amount in litres of water you have lost.
Some good cool down stretches include:
Hip and thigh stretch: Kneel down on your back leg and lunge forward with your other leg and then lean forward until you feel tension.
Hamstring stretch: Lie on your back and lift one leg straight up. Grab your hamstring with both hands and bring your outstretched leg towards your head until you feel tension.
Groin stretch: Sit with your heels together and lean forward until you feel tension on your groin.
Quad stretch: Stand with your knees together and back straight, and holding onto a wall if you need to, bend one knee and hold the foot with one arm. Hold this for 10-30 seconds.
There are many other cool down stretches that you can do to accelerate the after-exercise recovery process and reduce the risk of injury or delayed onset muscle soreness.
It is also a good idea to replace the fuel your body has used during training. It is advisable to have a snack about 30-60 minutes after your training session to replenish energy stores used up during training. It is suggested that the snack has both carbohydrates and proteins such as yoghurt or a turkey sandwich.