You may have been told that your post workout cool down was the ticket to reduced muscle soreness. In fact, cool downs play a role and they certainly help with your immediate recovery. But if you must lose time from your workout, the cool down is where you are be able to gain time.
In addition to not helping with the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), cooling down with active recovery and static stretching helps your future anaerobic performance or flexibility about as much as simply sitting still. But that’s not to say that slowing your body down gradually after a workout isn’t a good idea.
When Your Workout Ends
When you exercise, your body is in an excited state. Your heart is pumping blood at a powerful rate, your lungs are working hard to keep up with oxygen demand and your muscles are generating energy and waste byproducts.
Your muscles are pumped with blood and other bodily fluids. When you stop exercising, your body must reverse the whole process to return to homoeostasis. Your heart and lungs do the majority of the work. They’ll do this regardless of whether you slow things down gradually or suddenly.
Suddenly stopping after a workout could result in blood pooling in your extremities, a fast change in blood pressure and subsequent dizziness.
Keeping your body moving, your muscles continue contracting, preventing pooling of blood in the extremities and reducing dramatic changes in blood pressure.
The ideal cool down depends on whether you were doing strength training or cardio. For cardio there are some clear signs of when you have cooled down enough.
A cool down should last as long as it takes for your heart rate to return to within 20 percent of your resting heart rate and for you to stop sweating and breathing heavily.
It’s harder to tell when you have cooled down enough after strength training!
You need time to address all the muscles used during the activity you performed. For cool down the time is 15 minutes or more depending on the individual.
The goal is to keep moving! For instance, if your workout was heavily weighted toward running, gradually slowing to a jog then a walk is an excellent way to start your cool down.
If you just spent your workout lifting legs, you want to start with a series of lower body dynamic stretches followed by a slow walk.
Stretch Things Out
The best time to engage in static stretching is when your body is warm, just as it is following a workout. Don’t static stretch as a warm up precisely because your muscles are cold and stiff.
Wait until your respiration and heart rate have slowed before you start these stretches.
Roll Out The Kinks
Using a foam roller after working out, known as a post workout roll reduces DOMS in the days following.
Foam rolling is a type of myofascial release that helps you feel looser and lighter. Rolling helps to break up adhesion and increase blood flow to your muscles.
Focus on the muscles targeted during your workout and perform slow, controlled rolling over each muscle. Avoid joints and bony points.
When you find a tight knot, stop rolling and “melt” into the roller until the knot loosens up.
Post workout hydration isn’t limited to your 15 minute cool down, it’s a good time to start replenishing the water your body lost through sweat and respiration.
All your body’s chemical processes take place in the medium of water, so if you’re dehydrated at the end of your workout, your body will have a harder time recovering.
Start by drinking 8 ounces of water within 30 minutes of your workout, continue drinking based on your thirst. You want your urine to be straw coloured to transparent yellow within a couple hours of your workout.