Once you have finished a tough workout, it is tempting to just sit down and take a break, but that is not what is best for your body.
After exercise, a cool down will help you make the transition from being active to being sedentary. Its purpose is to prepare your body for the next time you workout. A cool down will help your body recover and re-energize itself for the next time you are active. If you skip this important step, your muscles may feel tight for a few days which can lead to injuries, and will interfere with future workouts.
A cool down has many great benefits:
• It helps to slow your heart rate, breathing, and bring blood pressure back to normal.
• It can improve your flexibility.
• It reduces your risk of injury.
• It removes waste products (such as lactic acid) from muscle tissue, and helps to reduce the risk of soreness.
During your cool down, you should concentrate on stretching. After a workout, your body is fully relaxed and flexible, which means it’s a good time to stretch in order to help your joints and muscles stay healthy and supple. You may also want to do some self-massaging at this time.
Here are a few stretches that target some of your major muscle groups:
- Quadriceps (front of thigh): Stand holding the wall or a chair for balance. Then, bend your right knee up behind you as you reach back and grasp your right ankle with your right hand. Make sure you keep your knee close to your body as you pull your heel towards your buttocks. You should feel mild tension in front of your thigh. Hold this position for about 15 seconds, and repeat on the other side. Do not over-stretch your knee.
- Hamstring (back of thigh): Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and toes pointing straight ahead. Bend forward at the hips and reach your hands around the ankles. You should feel mild tension in back of the upper part of the legs. Hold this position for about 15 seconds.
- Biceps (front of upper arm): This stretch can be done while either sitting or standing. Extend your right arm out in front of your body with your palm facing up. Grasp your right fingers with your left hand, and gently pull your right fingers back and towards your body. You should feel mild tension through the front of your upper arm. Hold 15 seconds, and then repeat on other side.
- Triceps (back of upper arm): This stretch can also be done while either sitting or standing. Drop your chin down to your chest, and reach your right arm straight up over your head with the palm facing forward. Bend your elbow and drop your right hand to the back of your neck. Now, your palm will be facing in. Reach overhead with your left arm and grasp just below the right elbow with the left hand. Gently pull the right arm to the left. You should feel mild tension in the back of the right upper arm. Hold 15 seconds, repeat on other side.
- Calves (back of lower leg): Stand about three feet from a wall, with your feet at shoulder width and flat on the ground. Put your hands on the wall with your arms straight for support. Lean your hips forward and bend your knees slightly to stretch your calves.
- Hips, shoulders, and lower back: Stand about three feet from a wall, and put your hands on the wall with your arms straight for support. Put your feet together, rocking back on your heels with your hands on the wall and your arms straight to form a jackknife with your body. This stretch helps the muscles in your hips, shoulders, and lower back.
- Hips and lower back: Sit on the ground with your legs crossed. Lift your right leg and cross it over the left, which should remain bent. Hug the right leg to your chest and twist the trunk of your body to look over your right shoulder. Change legs and repeat (i.e. looking over your left shoulder).
Your cool down should last several minutes after your workout is complete. You may want to just try tapering off your activity. For example, if you have been running, cool down by slowing down to a jog then a brisk walk for a few minutes. Finally, finish up by stretching for 10 to 15 minutes.
So, after your next workout, remember not to lie down immediately and relax. Try to cool your body down and make the transition from active to sedentary easier on yourself.
Your body will thank you for it the next time you exercise!
© 2017 HolaDoctor