Cool downs: The Best Way to Shuck off any Workout and Return to Life
When we workout your mind and body goes to a different place - a place that takes primal concentration and focus to maintain. All of our senses are heightened and our thinking could not be any more in the moment, thinking only about the task at hand. This is Flow, The Zone, Tunnel Vision and sometimes a happy place inside ourselves.
Unfortunately life does typically not allow us to be in this state of bliss and sensual concentration all the time. We have to talk to others, plan our day, problem solve and go to meetings. So what is the best way for you to calm down and make that transition into your daily responsibilities.
I know most people skip the cool down - it took a chiropractor boyfriend to get me to stretch more than once a week. So firstly, let’s talk physiologically why cooling down is important. In some cases, stopping abruptly after a workout, especially and endurance workout (45+ minutes) can cause pooling of blood in the legs and result in dizziness, fainting and swollen ankles. In some cases, even fatal heart arrhythmia (irregular beating of the heart). But most likely, just hopping in the shower and going directly to work or directly to the couch after your workout will result in extreme, delayed fatigue and the tightening of muscles. Think about it: you sit down when your muscles are still warm, happy and responsive, and you just stay there sitting and working. Your muscles will cool in a contracted, ugly position: shoulders rounded and forward, hips closes and tight, knees bent. Terrible. Just terrible.
Boxing and MMA: Pamper that aggression out of you. After a couple of easy cool down exercises and shower, take extra time to moisturize and take care of your body in a gentler way. Don’t just slap it on and spread, but sit down and take the time to really rub, massage and work it into your body. I use coconut oil with a bit of lavender and clove oil. Spend extra time on your face and neck, smoothing everything out and allowing your body to relax from the war you just put your body through.
Yoga: This spiritual practice acts a lot like meditation. After your classes, this would be the best time to intentionally organize your thoughts, plans and emotions. Write in your journal or plan the priorities of the day. Review goals and write it down. Visualize your up coming day or week. This is a powerful time and the physical act of writing and mentally living your days makes your intentions clearer, stronger and more real.
Pilates and Barre: zone out and sweat in the sauna or steam room. Stretch, relax and give those muscles a break. Try focusing in on the especially tight muscle group and mentally tell them to release.
Dance and Zumba: take care of your legs and feet. A foal roll session for the thighs and calves is great but makes sure to massage the arches and toes as well. We carry a lot of tension in our feet and ankles but typically ignore these parts or ourselves. Give those stems some love.
Spin class, Swim and Running: slow laps, stretching, vitamins and electrolytes is your prescription. After you finish your intended workout, slow to a pace that constitutes 60% effort and do this for about 5-10 minutes. Then make sure to stretch your hip flexors, quads, back and chest. After the movement is done, your first order of business is to replace what you lost during your workout. Something like fruit and vegetable smoothie is good. But also, eat a pickle or drink some apple cider vinegar tonic. Pickle juice and vinegar have a good amount of potassium helping you restore nerve connectivity and get your brain back in order.
Crossfit and Heavy Weightlifting: you are best ending your workout in a deep tissue massage and mobility stretching. Take ten minutes to foam roll your legs back and shoulders, or use a tennis or lacrosse ball for get those hard, dark and painful spots. Finish up with stretches for the hips, shoulders and chest. Personally, I prefer the conversation and beer method of cooling down from a good lift, but to each his own.