10 minutes. That’s all you need to dedicate to cooling down at the end of your workout. Still, many people skip this part, deeming it unnecessary, or maybe to get ahead of the traffic on the way home from the gym.
But a cool down is fundamental after exercise, not just to lower your chances of injury and promote blood flow, but for your mental health too. Let’s look at the importance of those post-workout stretches – so you’re less tempted to rush off after your workout next time.
Exercising puts your body under stress — especially high-intensity workouts or heavyweight training that forces you to work at maximum effort. It’s crucial to stretch and lengthen your muscles after this kind of tension, for many reasons.
Forgetting to stretch can make training a painful experience – as anyone who’s suffered a “runner’s knee” will tell you. Cooling down is just as important as warming up for preventing muscle tears and other injuries. When you stop exercising without a cool down, your body builds up lactic acid and other waste products. Lactic acid is notorious for that cramping and stiffness the day after exercising – you definitely want to flush this one out if you can.
Your heart is pumping faster and your blood vessels are dilated after exercise. To slow your heart rate and get blood pumping more efficiently, cooling down is a must. Without this vital part of your workout, blood that’s been delivered to the muscles to help them contract quickly will build-up – known as blood pooling.
As well as reducing your chances of fainting after exercise, a cool down will also put you in a good mood. Deep breaths naturally give a cue to all your muscles to relax, so breathing out through each stretch is a deliciously feel-good way to rid yourself of tension in both mind and body. If a certain area feels tighter, cooling down is perfect because you can stretch to ease that particular ailment.
As your heart rate decreases and your muscles relax, cooling down brings your body levels back to normal. This way you can prevent dizziness (from stopping a workout suddenly) and dispose of any lactic acid produced during the workout. This will help you feel less sore the following day, ready to prepare for your next session. Because at EVO, we are ALL about that progression.
A gradual decrease in exercise intensity is best for your body. This can involve light jogging or gentle cycling, before moving into muscle stretching. It’s important to stretch all your muscles – not just those you’ve used during the training. Hold each stretch for around 30 seconds, breathing out to release stress. For more in-depth advice on incorporating warm-ups and cool-downs into your workouts, check out this guide.