Do you make time for a proper post-workout cool down? Recovery is just as important as the workout. Take these three steps to cool down.
Be honest: When was the last time you did a proper post-workout cool down? A real one. The workout itself often gets so much of the attention that we don’t realize cooling down is just as important as the workout itself.
During your normal day-to-day routine, your body is spending most of its energy digesting food and getting you from point A to point B. As you increase your activity through exercise, your working muscle groups require increased blood flow. Without a proper cool down an abrupt stop can cause blood pooling, dizziness, muscular injuries and fainting.
Here’s how to correctly cool down in just three easy steps:
Check Your Heart Rate
Before you start your workout warm-up, check your pulse for your resting heart rate. No heart rate monitor? No problem. Take two fingers and slide them down the side of your neck until you feel your pulse. Start a timer and count how many times your heart beats per minute. As you begin to cool down, take your pulse again. Make sure this number is on the lower end of your target heart rate and close to your original resting heart rate before you head home from the gym.
After your post-workout pulse check, make sure to keep moving. Whether it’s with a guided cool down with a fitness instructor or by taking a walk after your run, take 10 to 15 minutes to continue to move at a decreased intensity. This is when you’ll guide that heart rate down and allow the blood to slowly return to its normally scheduled program without pooling.
Once your heart rate starts to come down, make time to actively stretch. This includes movements that take your joints and muscles through their full range of motion. Do several standing stretches to the muscle groups you just finished working. Only when your heart rate is close to your resting heart rate should you sit down to stretch. Lastly, use a foam roller, lacrosse ball or other piece of recovery equipment to roll out sore muscles.
After you use your iron, you wouldn’t unplug it and immediately put it away, right? The same goes with cooling down your body. Take 15 to 30 minutes to slow your heart rate, stretch, improve mobility and roll out tight muscles. A proper recovery will improve flexibility, prevent injuries and allow for safer workouts for the rest of your life.
Lisa Payne is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, and travel. She stems from a background in television, playwriting, and personal training. Always on the go, follow her on social media or check out her website at lisapaynefitness.com.