Admit it: Post-workout, you often skip the cool down. So many of us want to get through our workout as soon as possible, or we crush it so hard that we can’t be bothered to properly stretch and perform some cooldown exercises. While they might not be as sexy as a sweat-inducing HIIT class or cardio dance class, cooldowns are an essential part of your workout.
“Proper cooldowns work by adequately decompressing the body after the rigors of a tough workout,” Noah Neiman, co-founder of Rumble and Rumble TV, tells SheKnows. “It’s important that as our workout intensity increases that we’re taking the steps to effectively warm up before and cooldown after.”
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Warming up and cooling down after workouts is not just great for your physical body, says Neiman, “but it can also help your central nervous system get ready and then subsequently unwind, making your workouts and recovery time more effective.”
And the good news is, Neiman says about 10-20 minutes is all you need to get those muscles feeling nice and limber.
If you’re ready to cooldown like a champ, here is some of the best cooldown advice from real trainers who know better.
Use a variety of static and dynamic stretches in your cooldown
According to F45‘s Recovery Athlete Cristina Chan, both static and dynamic stretching techniques can be included within cooldown techniques. When stretching is integrated into a cooldown it can aid recovery and provide relief to any muscle soreness,” she says. “Some stretches may provide benefit in the reduction of muscle stiffness and increase joint range of motion.”
Her suggestions include:
Dynamic Whole Body Rotation: Stand with feet slightly wider than hips and elbows at shoulder height to rotate, press one elbow behind and release the opposite foot. Swing freely to alternating sides.
Dynamic Lunge And Reach Above: Lunge forward and reach arms overhead, maintain neutral spine with abdominals engaged, Return to start position and repeat alternating sides
Static Standing Forward Fold Reach
Place feet hip width apart with knees slightly bent. Interlace fingers behind your back and old forward and reach hands towards your head.
Take a breath.
Cooling down is a great way to calm the nervous system, says Ellen Thompson, NASM certified personal trainer and fitness manager at Blink Fitness. “By incorporating restorative poses (held postures of rest) with breathwork (slow diaphramic breathing), you can increase parasympathetic tone and allow the body to relax faster after a workout. I’d recommend 1-3 restorative postures, holding each posture for 2-5 minutes and taking 20 seconds per breath.”
Adds Chan: “A breathing practice, commonly referred to as breath work, can be as simple as it sounds: deep, controlled breathing into the navel. Take a deep breath into your belly through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth, releasing tension you may be ‘gripping ’ onto.” You could also combine breathing with a slow dynamic stretching, targeting muscle groups that you have just worked or whole-body stretching.
Perform a stretch for each major muscle group
Most workouts recruit all major muscle groups in your body, even when you performed a workout with specific target zones. Which is why, Pure Barre VP of Training & Technique, Katelyn DiGiorgio, suggests, in your cooldown, “to pick various stretches that will target all major movers in your body to increase overall flexibility, joint range of motion and improved physical function. A balanced stretch as part of your cooldown can also decrease feelings of stress, fatigue and anxiety and improve feelings of energy, mindfulness and positivity.”
Literally cool down
“The soft tissues utilized during a workout have a tendency to
exhibit inflammation,” says Thompson, “Which can slow down the recovery process, so by incorporating cold compresses or stepping into a cold bath you can aid in the recovery process.”
“It’s pretty natural to be thirsty after a workout, but remind yourself to hydrate with water before other beverages,” says DiGiorgio. “Hydrating after a workout is essential to help your body replenish what it lost and flush out lactic acid that accumulates in the muscles.”
A version of this story was published February 2021.
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