It’s surprising how many of us neglect to do a cool down (or a warm up), especially living in the heat and humidity of Singapore. A cool down is something that should come at the end of every workout or training session we do and there’s a great deal of evidence backing up how beneficial doing one is!
Bringing the Body Back to a Normal State
Conducting a cool down gradually decreases your heart rate back to a level that is more normal for everyday activities- you want to be aiming to get your heart rate back down to what it was before you started the exercise. This also helps to cool the body from the exercise we’ve just done, which, being in Singapore, is particularly important as failure to conduct a cool down may lead to you sweating for a good few hours even after you’ve finished your session! Additionally, it helps bring your mind back to a more relaxed state, cooling down slows the release of adrenaline in our bodies and brings our heart rate down, both of which help us reach a more relaxed mental state for after the exercise.
Reduce the Chances of Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation (OBLA)
Gradually cooling your body down helps to eliminate the lactate that accumulates in your muscles. For the uninitiated, the burning sensation you feel that makes you want to stop is the lactate in your muscles. If you neglect to cool down and flush the lactate out then this may cause onset of blood lactate accumulation or OBLA, which leaves the muscles feeling tired and increases the chances of delayed onset of muscles soreness (DOMS).
Reduces Chances of Blood Pooling
This one’s especially important. Having a good cool down helps to reduce the chances of blood pooling. Blood pooling is where blood stays in our extremities (especially the lower) and cant return to the heart. Without a cool down, the result of blood pooling means that blood wont be able to get back to the heart and therefore the brain will also be in oxygen debt. This leads to symptoms such as dizziness, fainting and nausea, none of which sound appealing.
How to Cool Down Properly
Start with cardio but just like a warm up in reverse. Start from about a 5/10 for an effort level and over the course of 10 minutes you want to bring that effort gradually down (dropping a level every 2 minutes or so) all the way down to a nice easy 1. Next you want to focus on some static stretching, targeting the areas you may have focused on in the session and major muscle groups in the body. Stretching now is particularly effective because the muscles are warm and supple and it’s a perfect opportunity to improve our flexibility. Completing static stretches also helps our bodies to come to a more relaxed state and keeps bringing that heart rate down. Finally you want to make sure you refuel and rehydrate as you would’ve lost fluid while exercising. Aim to drink as much as you have to so you’re urine is clear, if it’s not clear then you know you haven’t drunk enough. As well as the water you should get carbohydrates in to replace the lost glycogen- the food for our muscles and body.
Now you know why and how you need to cool down, why not check up the importance of a warm up too?