The Cool Down - Recover Faster & Avoid Injury!

The warm-up and cool-down are both important, but for different reasons. The warm-up prepares the body for strenuous activity, while cooling down plays a different role. Learn more.

Many people dismiss the cool down as a waste of time, or simply unimportant. In reality the cool down is just as important as the warm up, and if you want to stay injury free, it's vital.

Although the warm-up and cool-down are just as important as each other, they are important for different reasons. While the main purpose of warming up is to prepare the body and mind for strenuous activity, cooling down plays a different role.

Why Cool Down?

The main aim of the cool down is to promote recovery and return the body to a pre exercise, or pre-workout levels. During a strenuous workout your body goes through a number of stressful processes; muscle fibers, tendons and ligaments get damaged, and waste products build up within your body. The cool down, performed properly, will assist your body in its repair process.

Post Exercise Muscle Soreness:

One area the cool down will help with is "post exercise muscle soreness." This is the soreness that is usually experienced the day after a tough workout.

Most people experience this after having a lay-off from exercise, or at the beginning of their sports season. I remember running a half marathon with limited preparation, and finding it difficult to walk down steps the next day because my quadriceps were so sore.

Post exercise muscle soreness is caused by a number of things.

Micro Tears:

Firstly, during exercise, tiny tears called micro tears develop within the muscle fibers. These micro tears cause swelling of the muscle tissues which in turn puts pressure on the nerve endings and results in pain.

RELATED ARTICLE
Muscle Fibers: How Do They Differ?
Our body is composed of many different groups of muscles and each person has a unique composition of muscle tissue in their body.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Blood Pooling:

Secondly, when exercising, your heart is pumping large amount of blood to the working muscles. This blood is carrying both oxygen and nutrients that the working muscles need. When the blood reaches the muscles the oxygen and nutrients are used up. Then the force of the contracting (exercising) muscles pushes the blood back to the heart where it is re-oxygenated.

However, when the exercise stops, so does the force that pushes the blood back to the heart. This blood, as well as waste products like lactic acid, stays in the muscles, which in turn causes swelling and pain. This process is often referred to as "blood pooling."

What Is Stasis Dermatitis?

Stasis dermatitis refers to the skin changes that occur in the leg as a result of "stasis" or blood pooling from insufficient venous return.

Insufficient venous return results in increased pressure in the capillaries with the result that both fluid and cells may "leak" out of the capillaries.

This results in red cells breaking down with iron containing hemosiderin possibly contributing to the pathology of this entity. In appearance the skin appears brown and may be weakened and ulcerate in areas.


So, the cool down helps all this by keeping the blood circulating, which in turn helps to prevent blood pooling and also removes waste products from the muscles. This circulating blood also brings with it the oxygen and nutrients needed by the muscles, tendons and ligaments for repair.

The Key Parts Of An Effective Cool Down

Now that we know what the cool down does and why it is so important, let's have a look at the structure of an effective cool down. There are three key elements, or parts, which should be included to ensure an effective and complete cool down. They are:

  1. Gentle exercise.
  2. Stretching.
  3. Re-fuel.

Stretching
Stretching helps reduce the risk of injury.

All three parts are equally important and any one part should not be neglected or thought of as not necessary. All three elements work together to repair and replenish the body after exercise.

To follow are two examples of effective cool downs. The first is an example of a cool down used by a professional athlete. The second is typical of someone who simply exercises for general health, fitness and fun.

RELATED SECTION
#1 Stretching Guide! Pictures And Video! #1 Stretching Guide!
Pictures & Video!

Search for stretches and learn the correct form with picture and video guides! Get the best results possible and stay safe while stretching.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Example Cool Down Routines

Example 1: For The Professional

  • 10-to-15 minutes of easy exercise. Be sure that the easy exercise resembles the type of exercise that was done during your workout. For example, if your workout involved a lot of running, cool down with easy jogging or walking.
  • Include some deep breathing as part of your easy exercise to help oxygenate your system.
  • Follow with about 20-to-30 minutes of stretching. Static stretching and PNF stretching is best at this time.
  • Stretching:

    Static Stretching: Holding a stretching exercise in one position without movement.

    PNF Stretching: Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. In essence what you are doing with PNF is overriding certain muscle signals that usually cause a muscle to contract, in order to allow a certain muscle to stretch further than usual.


  • Re-fuel. Both fluid and food are important. Drink plenty of water, plus a good quality sports drink. The best type of food to eat straight after a workout is that which is easily digestible. Fruit is a good example.

Click Here For A Printable Version Of This Page.

RELATED ARTICLE
Rehydration And 'Sport Drink' Ingredients!
Not all sports drinks are created equal. Make sure you do your research when picking out these drinks. Below I have broken out what some major sports drinks contain.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Example 2: For The Amateur

  • 3 to 5 minutes of easy exercise. Be sure that the easy exercise resembles the type of exercise that was done during your workout. For example, if your workout involved a lot of running, cool down with easy jogging or walking.
  • Include some deep breathing as part of your easy exercise to help oxygenate your system.
  • Follow with about 5 to 10 minutes of stretching. Static stretching and PNF stretching is best at this time.
  • Re-fuel. Both fluid and food are important. Drink plenty of water, plus a good quality sports drink. The best type of food to eat straight after a workout is that which is easily digestible. Fruit is a good example.

Getting serious about your cool down and following the above examples will make sure you recover quicker from your workouts and stay injury free.

RELATED POLL
How Long Do You Warm-up Before A Workout?

I Don't Warm-up.
1 minute.
2-5 minutes.
11-15 minutes.
More.

How Long Do You Cool-down After A Workout?

I Don't Cool-down.
1 minute.
2-5 minutes.
11-15 minutes.
More.

About The Author

Brad is a prominent Australian sports trainer with more than 15 years experience in the health and fitness industry. Brad is a Health Science graduate of the University of New England and has postgraduate accreditations in athletics, swimming and triathlon coaching. He also works with elite level and world champion athletes and lectures for Sports Medicine Australia on injury prevention.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to forward it to others, make it available from your site or post it on forums for others to read. Just make sure that this paragraph and URL are included. For more information and articles on stretching, flexibility and sports injury, visit The Stretching & Sports Injury Newsletter at: www.TheStretchingHandbook.com.


Bookmark and Share

Related Articles

About The Author

Brad Walker is an internationally recognized stretching and sports injury consultant with 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry!

RATE THIS ARTICLE
POOR
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
EXCELLENT
OVERALL RATING
N/A

Out of 10

0 Ratings

0

Comments

Showing 0 - 0 of 0 Comments

(5 characters minimum)

      • notify me when users reply to my comment
Showing 0 - 0 of 0 Comments

Featured Product