A cool down is as essential as a warm-up for a runner, says Deepthi Velkur.
The warm-up and cool down before and after a workout are just as important as the workout itself. While the key purpose of warming up is to prepare the body and mind for intense activity, cooling down plays a very different role. A complete cool-down of the body helps in a smooth shift from exercise back to a state of relaxation. Many individuals dismiss cool down as time-consuming or simply trivial, not realizing that it is essential to prevent injury.
To dive deeper into this phenomenon, let us be aware of some of the notable stresses that occur during and after each workout
During an intense workout, we put our body through a lot of stress. Tendons, Muscle fibers, ligaments get stressed and waste products fill up within the body. A good cool down aids in an easy repair process by relieving the effects caused due to a delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS (sometimes referred to as post-exercise muscle soreness).This soreness is usually experienced the day after a tough workout due to people having a lay-off from exercise or at the start of a new exercise regime.
During a workout, tiny tears named micro tears develop within the muscle fibers causing swelling of the muscle tissues which in turn apply pressure on the nerve endings resulting in pain.
The heart pumps large quantities of blood to the working muscles that carries both oxygen and nutrients required for the repair process of all the muscles that were worked during the exercise. When we abruptly stop exercising, the muscles no longer contracts and pushes the blood back to the heart along with waste products like lactic acid which remain in the muscles, causing swelling and pain. This process is termed as “blood pooling.”
What cooling down does for you:
- Steadily lowers heart rate.
- Circulate blood and oxygen to muscles thereby restoring them to their normal state before the workout.
- Reduce the risk of blood pooling
- Removes waste products such as lactic acid from the muscles that builds up during exercise.
- Lessens muscle soreness.
How to go about cooling down:
Primarily, a cool down can last for 3-10 minutes and includes a gentle jog, decreasing speed gradually to a walk followed by light static stretching and refueling. It is very essential that all muscle groups are stretched at the end of a workout. To cool down after jogging, a brisk walk for 2-3 minutes followed by gradually tapering the pace to a stroll is good. At this point, standing stretches facilitate in increasing the range of motion in the leg muscles. Seated stretches improve flexibility through the whole body and promote relaxation.
A workout comprising of strength training requires a total body stretching to increase the range of motion in the joints that were worked during the exercise. One needs to be particularly careful to stretch the joints as well. Stretches must be focused on the particular muscle group that you have worked out. Mild movements and stretching will benefit your cool down process and keep the body healthy.
So do your body a favor. Take time to warm up, progress gradually into the workout and cool down when you’re done being physically active.