As exercise enthusiasts know, stretching and warming up before a workout is critical. This process prepares your body for intense physical activity, ensuring that you gain the maximum exercise benefits. The same is true for a pre-workout meal, which should give you the proper energy to complete your goals. As physical therapists, we have noticed that cooling down is an often overlooked aspect of the workout process. In this post, we will discuss why cooling down is important and how to do it properly, from our perspective.
Why Do You Need to Cool Down?
Your body needs to cool down in order to fully benefit from the exercise. As our Long Island physical therapy office can attest, failing to cool down could also have disastrous effects on your body. For example, an abrupt halt in running could cause blood to pool in your legs. This may cause dizzy sensations, and impact blood pressure. Additionally, cooling down will also restore your muscles to their previous state, before the tension caused by the workout.
7 Ways to Cool Down
1. Cool Down Cardio Exercise
Whether you finish your workout with cardiovascular or strength exercise, cooling down is important. During the workout, your body is experiencing heightened physical activity. The transition from this active state to a resting position should be a gradual process. Our Long Island physical therapy office has treated severe injuries caused by a lack of cooldown.
Going for a walk after your run is a fantastic way to cool down naturally. Many gym-goers utilize the cooldown setting of the treadmill for this purpose.
2. Dynamic Stretches
It’s a common misnomer that people should do static stretches before running. Dynamic stretches may help sprinters warm up, but they are a great way for everyone to cool down.
Dynamic stretches tend to be more active than static stretches. They are also great for cooling down after strength training. After this intense activity, this will help your heart rate return to a normal speed. Our Long Island physical therapy specialists can help you find dynamic stretches based on your physical capability.
3. Static Stretches
Following a workout, your muscles are especially limber. That’s why static stretches, which are intended to improve flexibility, are crucial. Stretching will also relax the built-up tension from the workout.
While static stretches do improve the results of working out, they also relax muscle tension. This means that soreness in areas such as the hamstrings, quads and calves is significantly decreased.
Static stretches should not be painful, and are often soothing. If you do find standard static stretches (arm and shoulder stretch, hamstring stretch, etc.) painful, then consider speaking to a Long Island physical therapist.
As you go throughout the day, you should make a conscious effort to hydrate – especially on workout days. After working out, the need to hydrate becomes even more important. Drinking ample water should be a consistent part of your cool down process.
Hydrating properly is a critical aspect of working out. Re-hydrating will help repair the muscles and assist in the digestion process. Rehydration will also reduce the fatigue that comes with dehydration.
Some experts recommend a scientific method for determining exactly how much water to drink. By weighing yourself immediately before and after a workout, you can measure the exact weight loss. Then, drink the same amount of water that you lost. If you need help improving your day-to-day hydration habits, speak to our Long Island physical therapists.
5. Drink a Protein Shake
For avid exercise enthusiasts engaging in difficult workouts, protein shakes should be a staple of the post-workout cooldown process.
Your body will benefit most from a protein shake about a half hour after exercising. This period is called the metabolic window, as your muscles will absorb the most nutrients.
Beyond giving your body valuable protein, protein shakes also provide fuel in the form of carbohydrates. Based on your weight, muscle mass, and a few other factors, you should adjust the protein/carbohydrate content of these shakes accordingly. Our Long Island physical therapy office can help you to strike a positive balance?
6. Get a Massage
It’s not uncommon for a membership-based gym to have a massage therapist.
The strenuous physical activity involved in a workout will cause both swelling and muscle damage. Post-workout massage therapy seeks to break up knots and adhesions in the body to keep the muscles fully aligned. Physical therapy techniques can also help rejuvenate muscles.
7. Cool Your Body
Your body’s temperature will naturally rise during a workout. Literally cooling down the temperature of your body will go a long way in helping it to feel fully restored.
One way to do this is by cooling your neck with an ice pack or cold compress. With its close proximity to the brain, the neck is a great part of the body to cool.
Rather than drying off with a towel after your post-workout shower, allow the air to dry your body. The water evaporating from your skin will help to cool your body.
Finally, working out in an air-conditioned room will also help your body to keep a stable position.
Physical Therapy on Long Island
Cooling down your body after a workout is the natural end to a physically taxing process. With the right strategy, your body will receive many benefits. Contact the staff at Lakeshore Physical Therapy to find out how you can fine-tune your workout strategy to achieve lasting results.