Cooling down after a workout is an undervalued practise. It starts the recovery process off and is the first steps in avoiding soreness and fatigue in the days to come. Spending a few extra minutes to do a thorough cool down will pay off, both in how you feel, and your ability to come back and train again tomorrow, or whenever your next scheduled workout is.
1. Yoga stretches - After a tough workout, some low-intensity yoga poses for 30-60 seconds are great to begin the recovery process. They allow the heart rate to slowly return to normal, while maintain control of breathing and releasing tension from the muscles too.
Relax into the stretches and focus on your breathing as you do it. It’s not a competition at this stage, it should be relatively relaxing and definitely easier than the workout you just finished. Stick with basic moves and save tying yourself into a pretzel for another time.
2. Foam rolling - You know that soft looking foam tube? Yes, if you’ve never used one, I’ll have to break it to you - it’s not as gentle as it looks!
The idea of the foam roller is that it will help release tension and increase blood circulation to the muscles, setting the recovery process in motion.
You want to slowly roll yourself along the length of the muscle, on top of the roller. I’ll warn you now, it can be painful! It’s going to be uncomfortable, but you should be able to manage how much weight you are putting into the roller. It should feel uncomfortable, but bearable. If it just plain hurts, take the weight off a little bit.
Spend 30-60 seconds rolling each of the main muscle groups, going slowly along the length of the muscle and keeping the tension consistent throughout.
3. Hanging - Hanging? Yep, just hanging from a bar. Find a pull up bar and just let yourself hang for as long as you can. Your grip will give up first.
Hanging takes all the weight off the spine and allows it to decompress. Especially important if you’ve been doing a weights or high-impact workout, which puts a lot of compressive force on the spine.
Allowing it to decompress will help maintain good posture and alignment, as well as aiding the recovery process.
4. Cross-trainer - The good old cross-trainer is a great piece of kit to use after a workout. It utilises the entire body in a gentle, no-impact way that means you can bring the heart rate steadily back down, keep blood flowing around the body and involve all of the different muscle groups.
Spend 5-10 minutes at a steady pace, slowing yourself eventually down to a stop when your heart rate and breathing rate have returned to normal.