Warming up before working out is important and doing a good one can be the difference between a decent workout and a great one. Unfortunately, many people neglect a proper cool down, which can also make or break the next day’s workout. Just like warming up gets muscles ready to work hard, letting your body cool off afterwards helps muscle start to recover. Here are five parts of a good cool down plan.
Decrease stress: Your heart and muscles are working hard during a workout. Your heart rate is high, your blood vessels are expanded and adrenaline is pumping. Abruptly dropping the amount of work your body has to do from 10 to 0 can lead to pooling of the blood in those expanded vessels, dizziness, nausea and, in extreme cases, fainting. A good cool down includes time for your heart rate to slowly return to normal with low intensity activity.
Hydration: If you worked up a sweat, you’ll need to replace the fluids you lost as soon as you can. During your cool down, work to quench your thirst by taking in up to 32 ounces of fluid. Your fluid of choice can be water, chocolate milk or sports drink. Replenishing your fluids should include electrolytes to replace the salt you sweated out as part of the drink or as an additional tab dropped in.
Food: Eat within 30 minutes of a workout. The same way your cool down is a good time to fill back up on fluids, it’s a nice time to plan what’s next on your plate. Your muscles will be craving protein for rebuilding torn fibers and carbs to fuel the process for both today’s and tomorrow’s workouts.
Mobility: Doing mobility exercises in an integral part of a good cool down. Foam rolling, stretching and other drills will all kickstart the recovery process. Each one will aid in clearing lactic acid from tired muscles, breaking up adhesions and getting the nutrition muscles need to them. Adding one or more of these activities to your post workout routine will not only help you feel ready for the next day’s session, it will help you perform better, too.
Reflection: A good cool down will give you time to chat with workout partners, evaluate how the session went and what you improved or need to work on next time. This can be a perfect time to journal, practice breathing exercises or improve mobility.
Take these five tips with you to your nest workout and have a good cool down. These simple things will help you feel better before, during and after your future workouts.