Walking is one of the best methods to cool down after a strenuous workout. Take a leisurely stroll, instead of brisk walking.
Most people know the importance of warm-up exercises before workout. Why do people do warm-ups? Warm-ups help do what their name says, they warm up the body. If you do not warm up your body and go straight to the hardcore workout, then there is a chance that you will end up injuring your muscles. Hence, we can see that warm-ups are very important.
Proper cool down exercises are also equally important. Doing cool down exercises is beneficial in many ways. Firstly, when you exercise, the level of adrenaline in the blood shoots up. Hence, you need to do some activity to reduce the adrenaline level in the blood. Secondly, when we exercise, the body experiences a heightened activity rate, especially in the heart. The heart pumps more blood in and out of the muscles. But when the activity stops, 'blood pooling' may occur in the muscles; along with an accumulation of lactic acid, a waste matter in the blood. This may cause sudden dizziness and fainting, which can be avoided with proper cooling down.
Research also says that people who do not perform muscle relaxing exercises after a workout, stand greater chances of facing the problems of Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) or Post Exercise Muscle Soreness. This means that the muscles that were worked out but not cooled down properly will starting hurting after a few hours. However, the role of cool down exercises in reducing DOMS is a matter of debate as there is no evidence to prove the same.
How to Cool Down After a Workout
Reduce the Speed
If you are doing cardiovascular exercises, then the simplest form of cooling down is to reduce the speed of your workout. Suppose you are running on a treadmill; decrease the speed gradually. You can do this for any cardiovascular workout for that matter, whether it is cycling, hiking, swimming etc. For the last three to five minutes of your workout, you should successively reduce the intensity of the exercise, so that your body gets into the pre-workout stage.
Reduce the Intensity
If you are performing a heavy workout, you can reduce the amount of weight you take on the last set. If you do a 4-set workout, make sure that you use the fourth set to cool down, by lifting a lesser weight. This will gradually ease the body into the state it was in before you started the exercise.
Stretching is crucial to avoid delayed onset of muscle soreness. Some people work out all their muscles in one day, while others work out a single muscle at a time. Either way, it is important that you give the muscle that you worked out a good long stretch for around 15 to 20 seconds. If you exercise all the muscles in one day, then you will have to stretch all the main muscle groups at the end of your workout. So, stretch your leg muscles, glutes, back, arms, shoulders, etc.
In order to do hamstring stretch, sit on the floor and keep your legs straight. Extend both the arms and bend the waist to touch the feet. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat. Another method is to keep one leg straight. Fold the other leg, so that its sole rests on the inner thigh of the straight leg. Hold the feet of the straight leg with both hands. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat.
Stand on one leg for doing quadriceps stretch. Use one hand to touch a wall or hold a stationery item for balance. Bend the other leg, and hold the feet with your free hand. Pull the feet towards your buttocks and hold the stretch. Release after 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.
You can perform glute stretch by sitting on the floor with your legs straight. Bend the left knee, and place its heel close to the outer side of the right knee. Keep your left hand behind you (on the left side), and place the palm on the floor. Keep your right hand over the left leg, so that the palm rests on the floor. Now, slowly turn your body towards the bend knee. Hold the position for 10 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.
For stretching calf muscles that are located on the back of the lower legs, stand straight, facing a wall. Now, keep your right leg behind the left leg. Bend the left leg forward, but the right leg as well as your back must be straight. The right foot must be resting comfortably on the floor, and your toes must be facing forward. Hold on for 30 seconds and switch the legs before repeating the stretch.
In order to stretch chest muscles, stand straight with your arms behind your back. Interlace your fingers and straighten the arms. Lift the shoulders slightly and stretch the arms backwards. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat.
Stand straight for stretching your shoulder muscles. Bring your left arm across the chest and keep it straight. Now hold the left elbow with the right hand and press the left arm towards the body. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and release. Switch the hands and repeat.
There are certain other yoga poses that cools down the body and calms the mind. They include pigeon pose, supine spinal twist, bridge pose, butterfly pose, etc. In order to perform butterfly pose, sit straight with straight legs. Now bend the knees and move both the feet inwards, so that the soles touch one another. Move the soles towards the pelvis and hold them together with your hands. Place the elbows on the thighs. Inhale and press the thighs down using the elbows. Hold the position for a few seconds. Exhale while lifting the elbows and releasing the thighs. Repeat.
For performing bridge pose, lie on the floor, with your arms straight on the sides. The knees must be bent and the feet resting firmly on the floor. The feet must be parallel to one another. Inhale and lift the hips towards the ceiling. Clasp the fingers and roll the shoulders beneath the body. Hold the position for a few seconds. Breathe gently and exhale while you lower your hips and release the pose. Repeat a few times.
The supine spine twist is done lying on the back. Bend the left knee and keep the right leg straight. Extend the bend knee across the right leg, so that the left knee rests on the outer side of the right knee. Keep the left arm in a straight line with the shoulder. Keep your right arm over the left knee and turn the head to the left side. Press the left knee towards the floor, using the right arm. Hold the position for a few seconds and repeat with the other leg.
Child pose is good for stretching the neck, shoulders, arms, back, thighs, knees, ankles, and hips. For performing this pose, kneel on the floor, and sit on the heels. Keep your knees slightly apart, and rest the buttocks on the feet. Exhale and lower your torso over the thighs. Your forehead must touch the mat. Slowly stretch the arms forward, till you feel the pressure on your shoulder blades. Keep your palms down. Breathe slowly and remain in that position for one or two minutes, before lifting the torso. Inhale deeply, while you release yourself from the pose.
As you can see, these exercises are very important and very simple as well. So at the end of your exercise program, devote around 5 to 7 minutes for cooling down your body. Those who are not interested in stretches or yoga, may opt for walking or jogging. If your workout routine involves swimming, indulge in a few leisure laps that will ensure an effective cool down. Gentle cycling is another option, for those who are interested. Another option is dancing. Certain household chores are also perfect for cooling down after a workout session. Clean the wardrobes, fold the clothes, water the plants, or do laundry. You may also get a body massage for cooling down your body. Once you are done with the cooling down, drink some water or have something to eat.