Cooling down after an intense workout has a great deal of benefits for athletes. A good cool down session helps promote the healthy repair of tissues and cells within the muscles, as well as the removal of waste products accumulated in the muscles during a workout. Cooling down also helps prevent a sudden drop in blood pressure, which can lead to dizziness and fainting, and helps gradually reduce the amount of hormones, such as adrenaline, coursing through the body, creating a state of mental relaxation.
Cooling down is a good habit for any athlete to have following a workout. Cooling down can be done in many different ways, and no one way is right for every athlete.
Here are a few ideas on how you can cool down following a workout:
Light jogging or walking
Athletes who engage in sports on a field–such as football players, soccer players, cheerleaders and track runners–find it easy to cool down by jogging or walking around the field following a workout. This is a great way for athletes to cool down and slowly reduce their level of physical activity without an abrupt stop.
Allison Farrington, a cross country runner at Skyview High School in Soldotna, Alaska, cools down by jogging, gradually reducing her speed over a period of 10-15 minutes.
“If I stop too suddenly, my muscles end up cramping, and that’s never fun,” she said. “Instead, I just slow down a little and take it easy. It’s like driving. You don’t want to slam the brakes, just kind of coast to a stop.”
Stretching prior to a workout is always important but can also help an athlete cool down afterward. Stretching helps stimulate blood flow to the muscles, which can help improve recovery and reduce the amount of soreness experienced later. Stretching also helps provide an overall feeling of relaxation for an athlete following a workout. (Read my article, “Don’t forget to stretch: Stretching is necessary for athletes.”)
It might seem a little odd that swimmers would need to cool down since they’re in the water, but cooling down after and intense workout is equally as important for swimmers as it is for athletes who engage on sports in land. Swimmers, like runners, can slow their pace down for a little bit to lower their heart rates before getting out of the pool.
Chelsea Belden, a swimmer at Skyview High School, said, “The last thing you want is to get a sudden muscle cramp when you’re in the water. At the end of practice, we slow our pace and work on getting our heart rates back to normal before we get out of the pool.”
*Samantha Van Vleet is a biology student and former high school athlete.