If you workout there should be no excuse why you don’t have a cool down routine. ‘But why!? I have worked so hard and now I have to do more?’ This is what we imagine you are saying in your mind right now. And we have no shame in saying yes. You have to have a cool down routine because it can help you when it comes time for recovery. In fact, it is a recovery technique. Far too often we think of recovery as this separate thing that we have to do when we are not working out, i.e. when we are on our rest day. However, recovery begins as soon as the workout is done. It’s not always about stretching, although this is important, it’s also about just staying active for a little while and helping your muscles to cool off gently.
What does a cool down do?
For those of you that need extra convincing. A cool down has been scientifically proven to help you keep more blood in the muscle for longer, after a workout. This helps for white blood cells to quickly move into where you have done some purposeful damage. So if you weight lift, you are tearing down muscle fibers so they can be rebuilt, bigger and stronger. However, if you go cold turkey and do not cool down, your body temperature will rapidly return to normal and thus your heart rate too. So you will actually lose the benefit of quicker-acting carbs in your diet, and your muscles will turn cold quickly. It’s like asking your muscles that were full of blood to empty our and return to a state of resting. It will cause cramping, toxins to build up and it will just mean the soreness of the workout lasts longer.
A cool down is like jogging after a sprint. Not having a cool down is like watching a 100m sprinter pass the finishing line and suddenly stop. It doesn’t make any sense and you can only see bad things happening from it.
Does it have to be stretching?
No! So many people think that a cool down just means static stretching. They could not be more wrong. You need to just move around, keep active and perform light workouts or light moves with your muscles. This could be something as simple as going to a driving range with the best golf balls for beginners. They don’t require a lot of power to strike, they’re not heavy, they don’t spin a lot and they provide tons of range. So you can go to a golf course, ask to have some private time at their range so you can collect all your balls when you’re done and just hit a few down the green. It really is that simple. This is great for those who have had a day of working out their biceps and triceps, or their back and shoulders.
But yeah, do the stretches anyway
Even if you do find some other way to cool down, we still recommend you do static stretches. Take it slow and easy. We think that stretches are a must for many people because they help to prevent cramp and it doesn’t cost you anything. But what kinds of stretches? We think that you should be doing stretches that focus on your core. This helps for every muscle to get involved. Doing a side core stretch engages your glutes, obliques, chest and triceps. Doing a piked compress helps to stretch your back, hamstrings, calves and your shoulders. Everything is centered around the core and if you try to stretch and compress this area of your body, you will have a good chance at doing compound stretches.
And yes, do isolation stretches as well; especially if you have hit a body part really hard in the gym. So if you have been working on your biceps with 3-4 exercises, then you should do standing wall stretches with your hand balled into a fist and just the inner side touching the wall as you turn away from it.
For those of you that did HIIT training, you’ll love this one. The name is a bit morbid but the position does kind of fit it. You lay on your back with your toes facing up, and your palms facing down. Then you will twist your legs outward at the knees so your feet point out, turn your palms over to face the ceiling and lift your chin up. All the while, you should keep your upper and lower back glued to the ground. Turn in and out in this motion a few times, slowly.
It helps to calm your body down as you are lying down with no body weight on your legs and joints. But you are turning your joints and large muscles over and upside down. This helps your joints but also increases blood flow. Breathe deeply and focus on just your diaphragm moving up and down.
Mental cool down
A great way to cool down mentally is to write down what you did in the workout. This helps you to formulate your thoughts which were so focussed on the physical activity, that you might not know what you were really cognitively thinking.
So go through each set, try to remember how it went. Most people can tell you how their first and last set went, but it’s the middle which remains a blur. But think about how you were feeling, what your body was doing. Ask yourself some questions.
Did you finish each rep how you wanted to? If not, which ones were they and why?
Did you finish each set, were you short of the required rep count, why?
How long did you take to rest in between sets?
Did you think that rest was too long or too short?
Which exercises did you kill and which ones were difficult?
Could you rearrange your exercises to give you a better workout?
Could you increase the intensity somehow? More weight, more reps, more sets, dropsets, supersets, less rest?
Go for a swim
It’s been proven that going for a swim after a workout can really boost recovery. This is because every muscle in the body is used and thus, your body’s circulation increases without major strain. Your entire body weight is being supported so you don’t have to endure heavy impact stress. Which is why swimming for a cool down is better than jogging or any other kind of cardio aside from bicycling. So if you have a swimming pool or your gym does, take your trunks or your bikini or swimsuit along and jump in the pool after your workout is done.
Studies suggest that all you need is a 15-20 minutes slow-paced workout where you do simple strokes. It could be freestyle or perhaps backstroke, whatever takes your fancy. Try to keep your heart rate in zone 4 or zone 3. You just want to burn the fat, and not push your body hard to burn carbs when you are exhausted or close to it.
Everyone needs to have a cool down routine they can do every post-workout. It can’t be too taxing otherwise we won’t mentally or physically want to complete it without thinking. So you should select one before your workouts and then only check your workout as finished when you have done the cool down. Let us know which kind of routine suited you best.