Cool Down For What?
Don’t leave your exercise routine hangin’!
Cooling Down – the most underrated and ill performed part of a work out. Most don’t consider it a necessity let alone even part of a work out. In reality, it is equally as crucial as the warm up and main event. A patient at Therapydia Portland had a revelation when we were wrapping up our session last week and felt armed with new knowledge of what a real cool down entailed. He inspired this blog.
For those that include a cool down in their exercise or sport repertoire, congratulations, but you’re not off the hook yet. I’ll bet the majority take the last 5 minutes of their run, for example, and slow it down a bit and call it a cool down. This should be considered maybe a start to the cool down process but let us dissect the pieces of a proper cool down and then package it up in a savory morsel for you to enjoy, reflect upon, and crave.
Step One: Ramping Down Your Heart Rate for Homeostasis.
Depending on the intensity of the exercise, this could take a few to several minutes. You can use the latest technology to monitor your heart rate or the good old-fashioned two-finger pulse check on the carotid artery along the side of the neck (press gently). Reduce the intensity of movement or exercise and monitor your pulse for baseline rate. Normal baseline heart rate will fall between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Practice taking your heart rate often when at rest to determine your average resting rate and aim for this at cool down.
Step Two: Soft Tissue Restoration.
After exercise, your muscles and fascia (connective tissue, see previous blog on Graston Technique® for loads of info on fascia) have taken a toll and need some attention in order to restore flexibility and proper length tension relationships to be ready to perform for you again in exercise or general daily life tasks. All the contraction-relaxation of muscle during exercise builds tension in the muscle and its surrounding fascia (excellent! this is part of what nourishes muscle). If muscle and fascia are allowed to remain constricted, they will not be able to perform at 100% capacity for you in other tasks, which reduces your performance potential. This cyclic malpractice can also amount to injury in a short period of time. Bad news!
The soft tissue restoration routine should include self-massage and stretching. I am a huge advocate for the foam roller! It is a beautiful piece of equipment – cheap and effective – and it should be in every person’s house. My green dude is a staple in my living room and he keeps the side of my couch company when I’m away. If shoulder injury or stability is an issue and you cannot perform self-massage by supporting yourself over a foam roller, you can easily convert this method to handheld roller and apply the same principles. Rolling your body over the foam roller (most of the body is accessible for this technique) in multiple angles will, in a sense, “iron” out the “wrinkles” in the fascia and muscle. Points of significant restriction will be very tender and you want to be sure not to hold your breath or tense up over these spots. If too painful, work adjacent to these areas first and use limbs not currently being massaged to support yourself to take a little more weight of your body off of the foam roller.
Stretching is last and this is a great time to perform static stretching; whereas dynamic stretching (stretching through movement) is awesome for a warm up to prep the tissue to accept increased loads. Static stretching is holding a stretch posture for an increased length of time. The traditional hamstring stretch and runner’s calf stretch are examples.
Simply put, the recipe for a cool down is 1 part heart rate resolve, 1 part foam rolling, 1 part static stretching. We at Therapydia Portland want to be your go-to resource for specific routines that complement your fitness style. We know there are many ways to stretch and foam roll, which can be daunting to sift through all the information on the web. Schedule an appointment with us at your convenience and let us guide you to keep you healthy and injury free.