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The 2 Phases of Cool Down Your Body Doesn’t Want You to Miss

A possibly white man with a prominent Adam's apple stands in side profile to the camera. He is closing his eyes as the water of a cool down shower runs over his face.
Fitness Editor
Deborah is our fitness expert and certified trainer. She writes many of our articles about fitness. She also creates free training programs for whatever your goal may be.

Too cool for a cool down? Why!? Taking a moment to cool your body down not only improves your muscle recovery, it also boosts your performance! All it takes is a quick jog, stretch, sauna, or ice bath!

What Is a Cool Down?

Your cool down is the counterpart to your warm-up. A warm-up prepares your body for the upcoming exercise, while a cool down helps you recover at the end of your workout.

What Are the Benefits of Cool Downs?

A cool down slowly brings your overheated body back toward equilibrium. Doing it regularly can also help you achieve better training results and health in the long term and even prevent injuries.

recovery aminos in gym bag
©foodspring

Cooling down does many important things for your body and muscles:

  1. Supports and accelerates your muscle recovery.
  2. Normalize cardiovascular system function, heart rate, and respiration.
  3. Promotes breakdown of metabolic products (e.g. lactate).
  4. Decreases muscle tension.
  5. Reduces soreness.
  6. Slows down your brain – mental relaxation.

The Right Way to Cool Down

Many different exercises, seated or standing, can be part of a good cool down program. For optimal results, divide it into 2 phases.

The 1st phase focuses on the regulation of your cardiovascular system. The 2nd phase is dedicated to stretches and relaxation for your muscles. Of course, all rules are made to be broken, so you can also design your program with an exercise from phase 1 or phase 2 only.

1st phase: Lower your heart rate with easy cardio

A white man and a woman of color, out of focus, laugh as they use stationary bikes to cool down after their workout
©skynesher

After your workout, go for an easy bike ride or light jog for 10 minutes. If you’re at the gym, get on the cardio machine of your choice. Go at a moderate pace and don’t get too out of breath. If you can relax and talk in a normal way, you’ve found the right speed.

Slowing down gradually makes it easier for your body to lower your body temperature and remove the metabolic products created during your workout (e.g. lactate), which shortens your regeneration time, making you ready for your next workout faster.

Our tip: Cycling or jogging is a particularly good idea after strenuous and intensive workouts.

2nd phase: Stretch and relax

The 2nd phase focuses on your muscles. Some small injuries (so-called micro-tears) have taken place during your workout. With the right exercises you can support your muscles’ reconstruction and growth.

These exercises also help support the breakdown and removal of metabolic by-products and range from stretches to the ice bucket or sauna.

#Stretching

A woman of color stretches her right hamstrings during a cool down by resting her right heel on a concrete wall just below her hip height.
©Westend61

Stretching can help you reduce tension, improve your blood circulation, and remove metabolic byproducts faster. Match the stretch and the motion to your workout and focus on your thigh and joints, or torso, chest, and shoulder depending on whether it’s leg or arm day, for example.

Avoid bouncing in the stretch position and dynamic stretching that’s too quick. Moving too fast will have the opposite effect on your fitness, because it makes your muscles alternate between tension and relaxation.

#Sauna or #HotShower

Hit the sauna or relax under a hot shower after your workout! Heat dilates the blood vessels, improving your blood circulation and promoting regeneration.

This process gives your muscles and mind time to relax and recover. Heat can also have a positive effect on sore muscles and speed up healing.

Our tip: Rest for a bit before going into the sauna to bring your circulation down slightly. Also make sure you drink plenty of fluids.

A white man runs his hand over his short, dark hair. His left hand massages the back of his neck. He is in a shower with water running over his body and funneling off of his chin.
©YakobchukOlena

#IceBath or #ColdShower

Not the hot shower type? No problem! Ice baths or a cold shower are also a great way to cool down, literally.

An ice bath is especially popular with competitive athletes because the intense cold contracts your blood vessels, inhibiting inflammatory processes. After the cold shower or ice bath, your blood circulation is stimulated again, which improves the breakdown of metabolic products.

Our tip: Don’t have an ice bath handy? Create a similar effect with alternating shower temperatures. Shower for 30 seconds with hot water followed by 30 seconds of cold water. Repeat for at least 2 minutes.

#Massage and #FasciaRoller

A white woman uses a fascia roller on her right leg to cool down.
©anchivy

Massages or rolling your muscles out with a fascia roller can also be used to relax your muscles. The gentle movement loosens your fascia while releasing tension.

Muscle soreness can be reduced or prevented with this kind of movement. Try to work with light and gentle pressure because too much massaging or rolling will have a counterproductive effect on your muscles.

Cool Down: Conclusion

  • The cool down is the counterpart to the warm-up and concludes your workout.
  • Your overheated body is cooled down and muscle regeneration begins.
  • A solid cool-down program helps prevent injuries.
  • Your cool down should consist of two phases.
  • There’s many different cool-down activities to choose from: easy bike ride, light jog, stretching, sauna, warm shower, cold shower, ice bucket, massage, or fascia roller.

More healthy living tips from foodspring:

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