Why do we have to cool down after a training session? Cooling down is a very important part of any physical training session. It helps the body to recover from the stress caused by intense exercise and allows the heart rate to return to normal.
The most effective cool down session involves some kind of low intensity exercise for between five and ten minutes, followed by some targeted stretching of the muscles. Most people slow down their exercise gradually towards the end of the session, but you can choose to walk following a run, or spin slowly if you have been cycling strenuously. As long as the cool down period is gentle enough to allow your heart rate to recover, it will be sufficient.
If you have been doing a session of vigorous exercise, for example a hard run on the gym treadmill, your heart rate and blood pressure will be high. If you stop abruptly and do nothing to actively cool down, your blood pressure will drop rather dramatically and you will probably feel very dizzy and sick. This is not a good end to a training session, so always slow down gradually to allow your body to return to its pre-exercise state slowly and safely.
Another good reason to incorporate a cooling off period into the end of your training session is to help your muscles recover. When you exercise, your muscles warm up and accumulate lactic acid. If you do not cool down adequately, the lactic acid has no opportunity to be dispersed effectively and this is the reason why you are more likely to end up with sore and aching muscles the day after a hard exercise session.
Lots of people new to exercise ask: why do we have to cool down after a training session. The answer is simple really—it is to make sure you are in a fit state for the next training session! During aerobic or strength training the muscles become tight and contracted. After a session has been completed, it is very important to gently stretch and relax the muscles. By spending a few minutes following some simple stretching exercises during your cool down period you can help to prevent any residual tightness, which can help cut the likelihood of injury in the long term.
A cool down period following strenuous exercise is an excellent time to take on board fluids and recovery nutrition. While you are gently bringing your heart rate down to a safe level, you can sip a sports drink or water and replenish any fluids you have lost. If you do not spend time drinking after exercise there is a chance that you will end up dehydrated, which will not aid your recovery. Recovery drinks in the form of shakes are very useful for a post-workout cooling down session. Not only will they top up your fluid levels, they can also help to restore some of the glycogen in your muscles that has been used up whilst training hard.