While most people are conscious of the need to warm-up, and generally diligent about including a warm-up in their routine, unfortunately they often neglect the warm-down. However the warm-down is just as essential as the warm-up. If you fail to do an effective warm-down then your recovery will be hampered. Generally your muscles will seize up if you go from working at a high intensity to a sudden halt.
One of the reasons we forget to cool-down is our live for the day approach to life (in other words, we do a warm-up because we believe it will aid us in the match we are about to play, but flag the warm-down, because the benefits from that aren’t immediately evident). However if you’re working out or playing sport on a regular basis then the inclusion of an effective warm-down is going to help ease muscle soreness and allow you to complete more workouts or play more games in a fresher state.
Here are other reasons why you need to do a proper warm-down after your workout session:
To gradually reduce heart rate
A proper warm-down is important for keeping you healthy. You don’t want to come to a sudden stop after running a marathon, cycling uphill or doing any other activity that has your heart pumping blood at high speeds. Skipping a cool down in these situations can sometimes lead to sudden dizziness. When you cool down properly, you help to resume normal breathing.
To reduce muscle soreness
A warm-down will also help to reduce muscle soreness after a workout. You do not want lactic acid and toxins to lodge themselves in the muscles. When you stop abruptly after a strenuous workout, the likelihood of this occurrence is higher. A warm-down portion will help to gradually push the lactic acid and other unwanted substances out of the muscles. This often helps to reduce soreness after your workout.
To fix blood circulation
In general, the warm-down portion of your workout will allow for the blood to circulate throughout your body. This is important for carrying important nutrients and oxygen to your muscles and cells, and assist in the growth and repair of muscles.
To increase flexibility
One of the best times to work on your flexibility is after your workout, as part of your warm-down. This is when your muscles are warmest, making them easier to stretch and reach new levels of flexibility.
Now that you know the importance of warm-downs, here are the structure of an effective warm-down.
Your goal during a warm-down is to gradually bring your heart rate back to its resting level. When your workout ends, keep up your body active but move at a slower pace; reducing your pace every minute or two. Your cool-down should last for at least five minutes, but you may need to keep moving longer if your heart rate is still elevated.
Stretch every major muscle group after a workout, holding each stretch for 30 seconds to a full minute. Stretching shouldn’t be painful, but you should feel tension in the muscle being stretched. Dynamic stretching activates the muscle and increases body heat and blood flow, which helps to provide your muscles with nutrients that can reduce soreness.
You can lose large amounts of fluid during training, especially if you’ve been working out outdoors when it’s hot and humid. After depleting your energy stores with exercise, you need to refuel if you expect your body to recover, repair tissues, get stronger and be ready for the next challenge. Ideally, you should also try to eat within 60 minutes of your workout, making sure you include some high-quality protein and complex carbohydrates.