the importance of a cool-down
Years ago, when I was making common fitness mistakes as a college student, I used to hop on the elliptical, sweat it out for 35 minutes, and hop off, immediately jumping into my abdominal exercises. I never gave it any thought, but now that I know better I make sure to include a cool-down after every workout. I can almost hear you whining “do I have to?” through the computer, and welp, the answer is yes.
One of the reasons a cool-down is important is because of the function of the blood vessels in your legs. I’m going to get all scientific for a sec: when you are exercising, your body is working hard to get blood to the leg muscles. The body acts like an efficient machine, bringing blood to all the parts of the body that need it during exercise. When you finish exercising and abruptly stop, those leg muscles quit actively pumping the blood up against gravity. This abrupt stop causes blood to pool in the legs and feet, keeping it from the vital organs that need it. Result? Lightheadedness, dizziness, a drop in blood pressure, and possibly fainting. Have you ever felt that after a workout?
A cool-down can last about five to ten minutes and consist of basically the “lighter” version of whatever exercise you were previously doing. Runners can slow to a walk, those on ellipticals or bikes can lighten the resistance and speed, and swimmers can slow to a crawl. In this fast-paced world most exercisers don’t want to commit five more minutes to their workout, but it really is important. It helps to ease the stress of exercise and transition back into regular functioning.
I’ve made the mistake of skipping a cool-down one too many times. On warmer days when I run outside, if I have too short of a cool-down and not enough fluids I get a massive headache that puts me out of commission for a couple hours. It happened to me yesterday!
Do you always incorporate a cool-down after your workout?