Do you cool down after a workout? It's generally accepted as a vital component to any exercise routine. However, some health professionals, such as exercise physiologist Dr. Hirofumi Tanaka, claim a cool down is unnecessary. In a New York Times article from 2009, Dr. Tanaka states that there is no reason to cool down and doesn’t incorporate it into his soccer regimen. The article also says that the major reason many thought cooling down was necessary—to expel the buildup of lactic acid that was thought to create sore muscles—has been thoroughly debunked.
So, what’s the point of adding this step to your workout? According to The New York Times article, a cool down may help alleviate dizziness that occurs when suddenly stopping a tough workout by getting blood pressure and heart rate back to normal. The Mayo Clinic addresses the controversy but still recommends a proper cool down, as it could still reduce soreness and bring down muscle temperature. Stretches during a cool down may be instrumental to increasing flexibility, thus creating a healthier body and safer workouts in the future. In fact, the Center for Disease Control recommends a cool down series of stretches for older adults in part to keep them mobile and flexible. Lubricating the joints now can help our bodies stay active and healthy even longer. Women’s Health Magazine has perhaps the most compelling reason: a good cool down can ease the memories of a brutal workout and get us feeling pumped for the next exercise session!
Cardio workouts can often be followed by a slower or more relaxed version of the exercise being performed. In this swimming drills routine from Fitness Magazine, a simple one-minute freestyle will cool you down. Women’s Health suggests going with an easy swim that lasts approximately one-tenth of your actual workout. Men’s Fitness Magazine says that a five-minute walk is sufficient for a running cool down, while Running Times Magazine encourages serious runners to engage in a cool down that incorporates a range of motion to thoroughly address all areas of the body.
Stretching after these cool downs is also recommended. The CDC stretches noted above are a great starting point. If you’re looking to put some more Ohm into your workout, why not try yoga? Many yoga poses such as "pigeon pose," "baby cobra" and "supported shoulder stand" are great for stretching out often-neglected areas such as the hips and spine while refocusing the mind. Whole Living has a basic series of cooling poses available. Athleta recommends the classic Downward Dog and supported backbends, among others in their series for cyclists, and eHow’s poses for runners include Warrior One.
Stretching is the perfect cool down after strength training as well. A foam body roller, as recommended by Women’s Health, is a tool that aides in easing muscle soreness and any tightness that occurs as a part of strength training and cardio routines. The roller, along with your own body resistance, massages the muscles. It may be a bit painful at first, but totally worth it! These rollers are readily available at major retailers, including Target and Amazon, and your gym should have them. Check out Fit Sugar’s foam roller stretches to get started.
Tell us: What's your cool down method?