The importance of a Cool Down after exercise

The time of year of bright mornings and long light evenings is upon us, resulting in many of us wanting to get out and exercise for those charity runs or to get that beach ready body. It is important to remember to warm up and cool down, all too often the latter is ignored. A proper cool down provides a smooth transition from exercise to a steady rest state, and helps to reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness. This is especially the case if you exercise before work and then go and sit in an office all day as scar tissue and muscle adhesions form quickest when exercised muscles are suddenly held in a shortened position.

 Aims of a Cool Down

  • Decrease dizziness – it prevents blood pooling in the large muscles of the legs, which can lead to dizziness or fainting due to a lack of blood supply to the brain. Gentle exercise will encourage the redistribution of blood from the muscles back to the core organs
  • Reduce heart and breathing rates to a resting level
  • Decreases muscles aches and stiffness over the next couple of days – helps the body dispose of the built up toxins, the most common of which being lactic acid. This can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and stiffness over the next 24-48 hours and sometimes muscle cramps
  • Improve muscle function and flexibility – restores muscles to their optimal length-tension relationship
  • Gradually reduces the core body temperature

Cool down Components

  • A cool down should last about 10 minutes
  • Be a gradual decrease in activity, i.e if you have been running slow down to a gentle jog or fast paced walk for 3-5 minutes to bring your breathing and heart rates back to normal
  • After a normal heart rate has been restored, perform some gentle static stretching of the muscle groups you have used whilst exercising

Stretching

  • Stretch gradually and gently
  • Do not bounce or stretch rapidly
  • Stretch to the point of mild discomfort, do not push your body into pain
  • Hold the stretches for 20-30 seconds and repeat each one a couple of times

 

Examples of Stretches:

Gastrocnemius

  • Start with your feet hip Gastroc Stretchwidth apart and slide one leg behind the other, keeping it straight with your heel down on the floor.
  • Bend your front leg keeping your knee over your heel.
  • Repeat the stretch with the other leg.

 

Soleus

  • Start with your feet hip width apart, step one foot backSoleus Stretch
  • bend both knees keeping your body centred
  • You should feel the stretch on the lower part of your back leg
  • Repeat the stretch with the other leg

 

Quadriceps Stretch

  • Stand with your feet hip width apartQuadricep Stretch
  • Take your right heel towards your buttock and hold with your right hand. Keep a distance of a few inches between your heel and your bottom ensuring your right knee does not drift out to the side but is directed towards the floor
  • Repeat the stretch with the other leg

 

Quadriceps Stretch Alternative

  • Lie on your stomach, keep your left leg straight Quadricep Stretch Variationas you direct your right heel towards your bottom.
  • Hold the front of your right foot with your right hand and rest your forehead in your left hand.
  • Keep a gap of a few inches between your heel and your bottom. Keep your legs parallel.
  •  Repeat the stretch with the other leg

 

Hamstring Stretch

  • Stand with your feet hip width apart.Hamstring Sretch
  • Step your right leg forward with your toes down, bending through your left leg.
  • Angle your upper body forward but keep your back straight with your chest lifted
  • Repeat the stretch with your other leg

 

Hip Adductors

  • Keep your body facing forward, straighten your Hip Adductor Stretchleft leg keeping your left toes facing forward and bend your right leg out at an angle keeping your right knee in line with your toes
  • Feel the stretch on the inner thigh of your straight leg
  • Repeat the stretch with the other leg

 

Hip Adductor Stretch Alternative

  • Sit on the mat with your knees out wide and the Hip Adductor Stretch Variationsoles of your feet touching
  • Lengthen your body and lean slightly forward until you can feel a stretch in the inner thigh

 

Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Kneel on your right knee stepping your left leg Hip Flexor Stretchforward
  • Slowly lunge your body forward until you can feel the stretch in the front of your right hip
  • Take care not to allow our left knee to protrude
  • Repeat the stretch on the other side

Gluteals Stretch

  • Lie on your back and place your right foot on Gluteals Stretchyour left thigh
  • Lift your left foot of the floor and place your hands on the your left shin
  • Deepen the stretch pull your legs closer towards your body
  • Hold when you can feel the stretch in your bottom and outer thigh area.
  • Repeat the stretch with the other leg

 

Triceps Stretch

  • Sit or stand in a comfortable positionTricep Stretch
  • Take your right arm above your head, bend your elbow
  • Prop your right hand behind your head and support the position with your left hand keeping your right elbow facing forward
  • Repeat the stretch with your other arm

 

Shoulder Stretch

  • Sit or stand in a comfortable positionDeltoid Stretch
  • Take your right arm across your chest and support the back of your right arm with your left hand
  • Using your left hand pull your right arm further towards your body until you can feel a stretch in the back of your right shoulder
  • Repeat the stretch on the other side

 

Erector Spinae Stretch

  • Lie on your back with your left leg out straight, Erector Spinae Stretchyour right leg bent and crossed over your left
  • Slowly use your left arm against your right crossed leg to apply pressure to the point of tension
  • Repeat with your other leg

 

Side Bend Stretch

  • Sit or stand in a comfortable positionSide Bend Stretch
  • Raise your right arm above your head then slowly tilt over until you can feel a stretch down the side of your body
  • If seated keep your left hand on the floor and your left shoulder relaxed
  • Repeat on the other side.