The Best Cool Down Exercises and Stretches to Do After a Workout
Do you know how to cool down after a workout, or why it’s so crucial? Our handy blog will help guide you through stretching after a workout and cooling down properly, as well as understanding why it’s so important.
No matter how athletic you are, there’s one piece of workout advice you’ve likely heard over and over again: never exercise without properly warming up! This is, of course, something you should remember whenever you hit the gym. However, as crucial as your warm-up may be, it’s not the only important element to consider outside of your actual workout. To train without a high chance of injury or muscle stress, it’s super important for you to practice some cool down stretches after your workout.
Why Is it Important to Cool Down After Exercise?
Going from 100 to zero is never a good idea.
Imagine spending all evening working on a hard project. When you finish, you probably won’t be able to fall asleep right away. Rather, you’ll wind down, whether that’s with a bite to eat, a glass of wine, an episode of your favorite show, or a chat with a loved one—just something to help you relax after work. Otherwise, you might find yourself too amped up to fall asleep!
Another analogy for the importance of a cool-down is to compare it to driving. If you’re going 60 miles per hour and see a red light, you’re supposed to slow your way to a stop, not just hit the breaks—the latter can cause some serious whiplash.
These scenarios translate perfectly into the importance of cooling down after intense physical activity. Like machinery or the human mind, your body also needs to wind down naturally after working hard. Otherwise, it won’t rest comfortably—and it’s crucial for your body to have a proper recovery after a workout!
If you drop from full workout mode to being completely sedentary, you’re not only risking injury— you also aren’t giving your body the chance it needs to regain its regular heart rate and breathing pattern.
Is There a Cool Down Workout You Recommend?
We’ve learned countless cool down stretches over the years. We recommend spending about 10 minutes on your cool down, though if you’re in a time crunch, three will do. Some of our top picks for cool down stretches and activities are:
(Gently) Walk or Jog
A very light jog or walk can be a perfect way to cool down naturally. You can gently jog in place, or move around the room at a reasonable pace. Don’t discount this cool down activity just because you were walking or running during your workout, by the way.
Intense Dorsal Stretch
Otherwise known as “Paschimottanasana,” or seated forward bend, this popular yoga pose is a great way to help your body wind down after a workout. To perform the intense dorsal stretch, sit on a mat and stretch your legs out in front of you. Bring your arms up, move forwards at your hips, and grab your feet or legs, or place your hands on the floor. Hold this position for at least a minute, and don’t forget to focus on your breath!
Even if you’ve never set foot in a yoga class, you’ve likely heard of child’s pose. It’s a comfortable, relaxing stretch, so we love it for a cool down. To perform this stretch, begin in a table pose and lean back so that you are sitting on your heels. Stretch your arms forward and bring your chest towards your legs; ideally it will rest on your thighs. Bring your forehead to the mat and hold this pose for at least a minute. Breathe deeply the whole time.
The Reclining Butterfly
Even butterflies need to relax sometimes, and this pose will help make sure you do it properly. To perform the reclining butterfly pose, begin by laying flat on your back. Bring your feet together, sole to sole, and stretch your knees out to each side. Your arms can either rest at your sides, or you can extend them over you—whichever is most comfortable. You can stay in this pose for 2-5 minutes.
Begin by laying flat on your back on a mat. You can bend your knees or extend them, depending on what is comfortable for you. Bring a knee up to your chest and grasp it with both hands, holding it there for as long as a minute. Return to your starting position and then repeat with the other leg. You can do up to three reps of this during a cool down sesh.
Downward Facing Dog
This yoga classic always makes a great cool down stretch, but we especially recommend it after a run or jog. To perform downward facing dog, you can begin in either a plank or a tabletop position; whichever you prefer. When you’re ready, swing your hips up and backwards—make sure your spine remains straight! Distribute your weight between your splayed hands, and walk each of your heels out behind you. Stay in this position for a full minute while concentrating on your breath.
If you’ve spent the afternoon playing sports, riding bikes, or hiking with your kids, suggest a shakedown as a fun and easy cool down. It’ll get them into the habit of cooling down after a workout without making it seem like a chore. To perform a shakedown, jiggle each of your arms, one at a time. Then, shake them together. Then, repeat the same pattern with your legs. Shake your hips, your head, and your whole body. Then, shake everything at once for 15 seconds.
I’m Ready to Hit the Gym!
Excellent! Now that you’re in the know about how to cool down after a workout, you can hit the gym with full athletic confidence. Whether you choose to use your newfound skills and knowledge to wind down after a big lifting session, a sweat-producing dance class, or a one-on-one training hour with your coach will depend on your own desires and needs. After all, once you have the proper tools to work out, your gym can truly become your haven. It’s a place for you to build your confidence, muscle, athletic performance, health, and the way you live your life.
At Jack City Fitness, we know what an important space the gym is for athletes of all kinds. We have made it our mission to go beyond the regular gym experience. That’s why we call the athletes who exercise with us our partners: because we’re all in this together. Here, we consider each of your athletic needs unique and valid. So, whether you choose to get your exercise in by joining one of our classes, riding solo at our lovely 24/7 facility, working with a coach, or even bringing your whole sports team in for a session, we’re here to support you.
Ready to get moving? Give us a call today. We’ll invite you over for a FREE fitness consultation, and you can meet our team. We can’t wait!