Do you ever finish your run and then rush inside to cool down?
Here are some reasons you might reconsider doing this: Calf muscles work in the same way as your second heart. They pump blood back up to where it is needed. The calf pump will slow down if you suddenly stop exercising. You may feel dizzy or even pass out if blood stays in your legs for too long. Cooling down properly can prevent blood from pooling and restore the body to a lower intensity state.
Cool-downs are often skipped by people who feel the workout is more important than their cool-downs or don't have a cool down routine. These are the limitations we're trying to fix. Why is it important to cool down, other than blood pooling?
There are four main reasons to cool off.
1. Redistribute Circulation
Your muscles needed more oxygen while you exercise. The blood flow was re-distributed by your body to provide oxygen to the muscles to continue working. It took blood from your organs, including your brain. Cooling down can help to level out the distribution, so your brain can focus more on work or study and be able to properly digest food.
This re-distribution helps to prevent blood pooling and clears hydrogen and lactic acids that can cause muscle cramps.
2. Calm your Nervous System
Your sympathetic nervous system (fight-or flight) took control of your run. This is great for running, but not for studying or work. Think about this: If your brain is constantly in fight-or flight mode, while you are trying to study or work, how will it impact your ability to concentrate and communicate with others? The parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and digest) can be cooled down to improve focus and inter-personal communication.
3. Balance Your Hormones
Running can increase cortisol, your stress hormone. This is a good thing to do while you are exercising. Chronic cortisol elevation can cause problems sleeping, controlling sugar and salt cravings, as well as fighting off illness.
4. Restore muscle length-tension relationships
Running can cause some muscles to tone up and others to lose tone. Toned people tend to be more flexible. People with a lower tone are more flexible. This is a great adaptation that will help you perform at your best. However, if this condition is left untreated, it can lead to muscle imbalances and compensations that can lead to repetitive stress injuries.
We now have an understanding of why cooling down is as important as running, so let's find out how to cool off.
What makes a good cool-down?
- It should be between 5-10 minutes in length, and 10-15 minutes if you are working in extreme cold or hot conditions.
- It should feel like a 1-5 intensity, on a scale from 1-10.
- This should reduce your heart rate to approximately 100 beats per hour.
- Keep your head up and your heart open.
- Keep moving.
- It should contain all major joints as well as muscles.
- All directions are included: forward/backwards, sideways, rotation, and
- Begin with larger motions and then move on to smaller motions.
- This may also include static stretching.
Repeat each exercise between 10-20 times depending upon how long your cool-down time is. Gradually reduce the reps for each exercise.
- To follow the motion, twist your torso from side to side.
- Walking lunges
- Air squats
- Plie squats
- Zombie walks are like a kick in the front that tightens your hamstrings.
- Keep your feet pointed towards your buttocks.
- Bring your knees to your chest.
- Make big arm circles in the direction of your arms, and then turn your arm backwards.
- Slow Carioca (aka grapevine)
- Slow side shuffles (get low).
- Rectangulate your shoulders back
- Rotate your head sideways
For 30 seconds, do your favorite stretches. Include a stretch for your low back and hamstrings as well as quads, quads, glutes and calves.
Do you have a favorite move that we missed? You can sub it in or add it in. You can save your favorite closing stretch if you keep your head lower than your heart. This will reduce the chance of feeling dizzy or fainting.
Follow this advice but feel it! You can cool down after your run. This will allow you to feel how your body feels throughout, after, and the next day. Next, try your own experiment. Next time, you can go back to the old cool-down or absence of cool down. Compare how you felt on the day you cool down to the feeling you had the next day. What did you discover?
Last but not least, take a moment and save this cool down routine for future reference. You can also share your love for cardio fitness with a friend who is a runner.
Oxygen Mag's first post was How and Why to Create a Cool-Down Plan
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