Why You Can't Afford to Miss a Cooldown

Learn why failing to cool down after workouts is inadvisable and how a cooldown benefits your performance.

Maybe you're tight on time or you have plans with friends. So you look at your workout for ways to save time. Sure enough, the cooldown is the first thing you cross off your chart.

"You never see guys skip out on their main exercises if they are tight on time," says Mark Roozen, owner of Coach Rozy Performance. "The cooldown is always the first thing to go."

There's probably not an athlete or gym-goer who hasn't been guilty of this. Even some strength coaches make this mistake. It may seem like a waste of time, but spending a few minutes cooling your body down after a tough workout is something you should never miss.

Your Excuses Are No Good

Excuses are like navels—everybody has one. We get it. You don't have all day to spend in the gym. But an effective cool down can be completed in no more than five minutes.

If you need to leave the gym early, look for other ways to save time. Ignoring your cooldown is not an option. To make your workouts shorter and more efficient, cut out one or two isolation exercises, like Bicep Curls, or group exercises into supersets or circuits with minimal rest time.

RELATED: 4 Excuses Elite Athletes Never Make 

You're Hurting Your Performance

A lot of you won't do a cooldown even if time is not a factor. You probably think it's not worth the time and effort. But you're missing out on potential performance benefits.

A cooldown accelerates recovery—the time when your muscles get bigger and stronger. "After a training session, you're fired up and working on all cylinders," says Tony Gentilcore, co-founder of Cressey Performance (Hudson, Massachusetts). "The cooldown brings you back down to normal."

During this time, your body replenishes its glycogen energy stores. Tony Bonvechio, owner of Bonvec Strength, adds, "If you skip the cooldown, you miss out on the chance to get a head start on replenishing glycogen stores." This allows your muscles to focus on regrowth and prevents your body from breaking them down as a source of energy.

Finally, a cooldown can reduce your risk of injury. "We find that those who do a cooldown recover better and are less susceptible to injury," says Roozen. "If an injury does occur, it's often not as severe and the recovery process is faster."

Follow These Guidelines

Focus on Tight Areas. Spend your time working tight and sore spots or areas that you hit particularly hard during your workout.

Avoid Static Stretching. Staying active with light mobility drills or cycling helps process lactate.

Don't Spend Too Much Time. Spending more than five minutes will cut into your workout time and won't provide additional benefits.

Perform Only a Select Few Moves. It's better to do a few exercises or drills correctly than to rush through several moves in the allotted time.

The Cooldown 

Any light activity is better than doing nothing after a workout. You can jog or cycle for a few minutes. Gentilcore recommends going through a few of your dynamic warm-up drills. For a more complete routine, try the cooldown program below.

  • Glute Bridge x 10
  •  Quadruped Thoracic Rotations x 8 each side
  • Wall Hip Flexor Stretch x 8 each side
  • Ankle Mobility x 8 each side
  • Plank x 30 seconds
  • Breathing: lie on your back with your hands on your stomach. Take a full breath in through your nose, using your stomach not your chest. Exhale through your mouth over five counts. Repeat five times.

Now that you know what to do after your workout, read about everything you need to do before a workout.

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