It’s the end of the session and someone says the words ‘right, time for the cool down’. At this stage a lot of us switch off, myself included. It’s even worse when you are training on your own and you know that you should do a cool down, or should you?
In my own sessions, I have done away with your standard cool down where you lower the heart rate with a light jog or some other form of movement followed by static stretches. Instead I have replaced these with either nothing or some breathing and mediation techniques – more on this later.
WHAT DOES THE SCIENCE SAY?
Well this is a really good question because there is no real clear answer. In summary, most say that a cool down has very minimal effect on next day performance and general muscle soreness, in some cases it suggests that it could even have a negative effect. So instead I will give you my reasons why I choose to either not perform a cool down or use different methods.
We are always in a rush. A rush to get home from work, collect the kids and finish our workout. Why waste your time on something you will probably only half do and not get any real benefit from? Instead, it may be more beneficial to add in some extra mobility corrective exercises or focus on some other areas of weakness during this time. When I am taking squads we normally have to be back at the hotel for a certain time or the bus is sitting waiting for us. Even in my early morning boot camps, people have to get back and ready for work so the idea of holding a few stretches isn’t the most appealing when you know you have little time to get yourself ready.
YOU JUST AREN’T MOTIVATED
After a tough training session who really wants to hold an awkward stretch for 30-40 seconds when you’re still out of breath? Or even worse helping a ‘partner’ (someone you barely know) hold a certain position while their sweat drips all over you. Once again not the most appealing. Even in football teams, the cool down is more of a social event where players normally have one knee on the ground in an attempt to stretch their hamstring while slagging someone else in the team.
All things considered including science, timing and motivation is there any real point in doing the standard cool down? Maybe we should call it something else like relaxation or chill time because this is ideally what you want to do after putting the body through all the stress that is related to exercise. Here are a few things to consider instead.
DO IT ANOTHER TIME
As part of my morning routine I will always go through a stretching sequence. Nothing that is going to give me the same mobility and strength as a yoga instructor but enough to help keep me mobile and reduce the risk of injury as I perform everyday tasks. The key to this is keeping it consistent. You may also want to add some yoga or have a longer more focused mobility or stretching routine you could perform in the evenings or on rest days.
GUIDED MEDIATION AND BREATHING
At our CORE Kids classes and boot camps we always try to finish with some guided meditation. I normally talk the groups we are working with through some form of relaxation and visualisation techniques which include concentrating on breathing and bringing the resting heart rate and breath to a more controlled and manageable level. This helps reduce the levels of stress the body is going through and sets you in a more relaxed mind-set rather than rushing onto the next thing.[/vc_column_text]