Don’t Forget Your Cooldown Stretches

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You’ve spent some time at your peak, don’t forget to get back to normal.

Exercise is all about pushing yourself to your limit, plus a little bit past it. You want to get your blood pumping to specific parts of your body, take powerful breaths, and really heat everything up. However, as important as building that heat up is, it’s just as important to cool down afterward. Cooldown stretches after a strenuous bout of exercise help return your body to its default state; regular breathing, relaxed pulse, normal body temperature.

It’s very important to properly cool down after an exercise session; your body isn’t designed to stay in high gear at all hours of the day. If your blood is pumping at max capacity even when you’re not doing anything, you could end up overtaxing your heart and circulatory system. The body is a gauge, not a binary switch. You can’t just flip between on and off, you have to gradually work your way back down to normalcy.

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So, what kind of stretches are good for a cooldown? Something that focuses on the parts of the body you were working is the best choice. For instance, if you were just out on a 30 minute run, you should do some leg-centric stretches. A standing quadriceps stretch is great for working the tension out of your lower legs after you put your all into running. If you were working more on your upper body, such as your chest or arms, try a seated forward bend. These kinds of long-reaching stretches will promote proper blood flow in your extremities, as opposed to focusing all of it in a single spot.

If you’re not very flexible, that’s okay. A few minutes of light jogging, winding down into a leisurely walk, also makes for a great cooldown. The point is to start at ten, the gradually work your way back down to one. As you as you take it slow and smooth, you’ll get back to normal.