What is a “cool down”? Usually, a cool down segment is performed following the exertion segments of an exercise program. And, it literally means to cool the body temperature down following rigorous exercise which has elevated the heart rate and the body’s core temperature, for an extended period of time.
Cool down segments may be performed at different times during different workout formats. For example, if your training session includes an indoor group cycling segment followed by a weight training circuit, abdominals/core and stretching/flexibility segment, you may be cooling down following the cycling segment to safely decrease your heart rates prior to getting off the bike and then continuing with the training session.
Follow the cool down basics featured below to help you safely and effectively cool your body down before moving on to another segment of your workout or, if the exertional segment of the workout is complete, cooling the body down prior to performing myofascial release and stretching/flexibility segments. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Cool Down Basics
-Avoid sudden/abrupt cool downs. This may lead to many undesirable outcomes such as lightheadedness, dizziness and nausea (i.e. keep the legs moving to avoid blood pooling in the lower extremities). Do not confuse a sudden/abrupt cool down with a high intensity interval training interval followed by an active recovery interval. This type of training (i.e. HIIT-high intensity interval training) is designed with active recovery intervals performed during the workout itself and unrelated to a cool down segment designed to cool the body down from the completed exertion segments of the workout.
-A gradual decrease in intensity, keeping the large muscles of the lower body moving at a lower intensity level, enables the body to slowly decrease elevated heart rates. For example, if you have been cycling, then continue cycling for 5-10 minutes, quieting your breathing, until the heart rate has decreased to approximately 50-65 percent of your heart rate maximum or a 1-2 on the RPE scale.
-The fitter you are, in general, the quicker your heart rate will recover from exertion and that is a great benefit of performing consistent effective exercise programs.
-The length of the cool down segment should reflect the overall intensity level of the workout. Therefore, if the intensity level has been extremely high during the workout, then the cool down segment duration may be lengthened. The duration of the cool down will also depend upon the specific client’s needs and limitations.
-If the exertional segment of the workout is complete following the cool down, then it may be a perfect time to perform a myofascial release, stretching and flexibility segment. The body is still warm enough to promote safe and effective release of the fascia and to stretch the muscles that were trained.
-During the stretching/flexibility segment, remember to stretch across all major joints/muscles, to a point of tension, never pain, for approximately 15-30 seconds, statically held. This helps to over-ride the stretch reflex and enables the muscles to relax and elongate.
-During this segment you may also include deep/conscious breathing exercises, visualization concentrating on relaxing the mind and body, and reducing stress, so that when this segment is completed you feel refreshed, relaxed and ready to get on with the your day.