The Importance of Workout Cool Downs

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You don’t want to be in high gear for a leisurely drive.

Pop quiz: what are the three phases of a proper workout? Answer: warm up, exercise proper, and cool down. It’s odd; they taught us about warm ups in gym class growing up, but I didn’t find out about cool downs until fairly recently, and in hindsight, I have to wonder why. Cool downs are an important part of maintaining your body post-workout.

To put this in context, the point of a warm up is to get your blood pumping and loosen up your muscles and joints in preparation for strenuous exercise. Think of your body as a bicycle with multiple gears. When you want to really push yourself, you shift into high gear so your body can accommodate the increased physical pressure. When it’s time to slow down, though, you can’t stay in high gear or you’ll overexert yourself. You need to cool down and get your metabolism back to where it usually sits.

Cooling down lowers your heart rate and slows your breathing, which in turn helps to prevent post-workout faintness or lightheadedness. It’s also just relaxing, which is beneficial from a mental perspective. You worked yourself really hard, you deserve some down time.

So what can you do for a cool down? Personally, I like to engage in some static stretching. Unlike its counterpart, dynamic stretching, which pumps the body up with fast, all-encompassing movements, static stretching involves slow, selective motions. This is especially important if you’re doing strength training, because you want to stretch out the joints you just worked. Your choice of cool down should reflect your exercise. If you just went jogging, for instance, do a few minutes of power walking, and gradually slow down to a leisurely stroll. However you cool down, just remember to do it; if you don’t take yourself out of high gear, you’ll end up out of breath and on the floor.