Is it important to cool down after exercising at home?
Many of the clients we see at Complete Podiatry are experiencing an injury or problem caused by an issue associated with their exercise routine.
Every week we see many clients who have pushed themselves beyond their limits or who have not had the best advice about how to healthy.
Exercise in the time of coronavirus
One of the things I love about my group sessions is the way, no matter how much we complain, our trainer (Hannah from H-FIT) always insists on making us do a proper cool down after our exercise sessions.
With the coronavirus still enforcing a degree of lockdown at the moment, many of us have been forced to continue our exercise routines from home via Zoom or Skype.
It's great we can do these routines from home, however, one of the things I always seem to NOT DO after these online sessions is a proper cooldown.
This often leaves me feeling tight and sore the next morning which in turn makes me just that little bit more likely to look for an excuse to avoid exercising that day.
What is a cool-down?
There are many changes that occur in our bodies during exercise.
An increased heart rate, breathing rate, changes to muscles tightness and joint movements are all normal things that allow our bodies to move better and more efficiently when we exercise.
However, all of these changes produce stress in the muscles, bones and joints as well as hormonal changes that, if not managed properly, can increase your risk of long term injury and tissue damage.
A cool-down is nothing more than a simple, short period of activity after you exercise that helps your body return to its normal functional state as quickly as possible and lessen the damaging effects of these exercise-induced changes.
Why is a cool-down so important?
The human body has evolved to be intensely active for short periods of time then rest and recover.
A cool-down provides your body with a smooth transition from exercise back to its normal state of rest.
The overarching goal of a cool-down is to reduce heart and breathing rates, gradually cool body temperature, return muscles to their optimal length-tension relationships, prevent venous pooling of blood in the lower extremities, which may cause dizziness or possible fainting, and restore physiologic systems close to baseline.
The proposed benefits of a cool-down are thought to include:
- Reduce heart and breathing rates
- Gradually cool body temperature
- Return muscles to their optimal length-tension relationships
- Prevent venous pooling of blood in the lower extremities
- Restore physiologic systems close to normal
How long should a cool down last?
How long you need to cool down for after exercise is really dependant on the type of exercise you have been performing and how long you have been doing it for.
For example, if you have been doing a fast walk as your daily exercise, the cool-down would be very different from what you would do after completing a long, intense CrossFit session.
Most effective cool-down sessions should last for about 3-10 minutes, depending on how long you were exercising for.
What are the best exercises to use to cool down?
A great cool-down routine takes a little bit of thought.
There is no point in just focussing on the muscles in your shoulders if you have had a big leg day at the gym
Here are my top tips for choosing what exercises to use for your cool-down routine:
1. Focus on the muscle groups you have been working
If you have really worked your glutes hard with squats and lunges, focus on cool down exercises that target these areas.
If you have been doing boxing or upper body work your cool down should really be focusing on those muscle groups and joints that have been working the hardest like the wrists, and shoulders.
The research on stretching has come in with some conflicting ideas over the years.
In the past, we were all advised to stretch before exercise to help our muscles "warm-up" however, we now know this is not the best thing to do.
Gentle stretching after exercise, however, is still seen as an important part of your cool-down period.
Typically, when we exercise, our muscles will tend to tighten up a little and if we don't stretch them out after exercising, the following day they can feel very tight and sore.
Once again, focus on the muscle groups you have been working, gently leaning into the stretches ease of any tightness.
3. Active cool-down exercises
Simple static stretches are a good part of your cool down however we also need to make sure the joints are cooled down as well.
During your cool-down period, move the muscles and the joints thought their normal range of motion without pushing them too far.
Exercising with gradually diminishing intensity immediately after a bout of vigorous exercise is thought to facilitate lactate and metabolic waste removal by maintaining blood flow in muscles during recovery.
The simple cool down
This simple 5 step cool-down routine can be used after any exercise and will give you a good starting point as a cool-down routine.
1. Shoulder stretch
If you have been doing planks, bridges or pushups, stretching out the shoulders is really important.
In this stretch, you need to clasp your hands together behind your back and gently lift up.
Hold this for about 15 - 20 seconds then relax. Repeat 2-3 times.
2. Glute stretch
For any exercise routine that included running, squats or lunges, you need to stretch out the glutes (your bottom muscles).
If you feel you need to add some hamstring stretches (the muscles behind your thigh), simply extend your leg towards the sky/ceiling while you do this stretch.
Hold this for about 15 - 20 seconds then relax. Repeat 2-3 times on each leg.
3. Quadriceps stretch
The large muscle group on the front of your thigh, the quadriceps, need stretching about squats, lunges, running and pretty much any exercise routine.
Grasp your foot and pull it up towards your bottom.
Make sure you push your hips forward to and keep your knees together.
Hold this for about 15 - 20 seconds then relax. Repeat 2-3 time on each leg.
4. Child pose
I love this yoga pose as part of every cool-down.
The child's pose is a great gentle stretch for the back, hips, thighs, and ankles.
Really relax into this one and hold for 30 seconds to a minute, all the while focussing on slowing your breathing down.
Once you have "done" your exercise routine for the day, it's easy to think you can relax and not move any more.
A really important thing to do as part of your day-long cool-down is to walk.
Walking keeps your joints and muscles moving and helps to stop the stiffening up and leaving you sore and uncomfortable the next day.
Need more help?
Blogs are great toe get you started but sometimes you need to speak to someone about the problems that are stopping you living an amazing life.
The Podiatrists at Complete podiatry are trained to help with all types of foot, ankle and leg problems and we are here to help you.
My challenge for you now is to take the first steps towards building a better life by booking in to see one of the Podiatrist at Complete Podiatry so we can help you build a better life from the feet up.
Yours in helping to build amazing lives from the feet up,
Director of Complete Podiatry