It’s hard enough as it is to get ourselves out the door and into a workout. It takes time, energy, motivation — and did we say time? We know it’s already a challenge to get in the habit of scheduling, nay, fastidiously carving this time out of our very busy lives to stay in shape. The last thing we want to do is tack on 10-15 extra minutes of cool down time after a solid sweat.
We’ve worked the muscles, so we did the important part that makes a visible difference, right? Cool downs may feel pointless, but they are actually a huge part of what makes our efforts visually manifest, as well. And recovery is not just limited to the post-sweat stretch, either.
The cool down after an intense workout is vital because it allows for gradual recovery of our pre-exercise heart rate. Why does that matter? Because we want to regulate our blood pressure intensity without shock factor, helping our circulation and blood flow go back to a smooth pace, at a smooth pace. This gives both our heart and our blood vessels a chance to ease out of an aerobic session, causing less strain or stretch.
From a more vain standpoint, stretching out the muscles we just worked post-workout is a great way to ensure those long, lean lines. After some intense machine weights for our quads, hamstricks, and bum, we need to stretch those muscles. We’ve been contracting them tightly, and in order to release the tension and allow the muscle to heal, grow, and appear toned and lean, we need to then stretch.
Stretching, deep breathing, and hydrating post-workout are great ways to recover our muscles by reducing lactic acid buildup. There is oxygen in our blood, which is necessary to break glucose down into energy for our workouts and daily function. When there is not enough oxygen due to intense energy output — like in a challenging hike, boxing class, or a HIIT workout — the body breaks down glucose without oxygen, creating lactic acid. Lactic acid is really just the result of a functioning metabolism, but when lactic acid builds up, it makes us feel sore and fatigued. This can make it difficult for our bodies to be physical again for days to come, slowing down our progress.
Decreases risk of potential injury
Sore muscles feel tight, and tight muscles are more prone to pulls, strains, and injury. Keeping ourselves loose, relaxed, and with excellent blood flow is ideal to prevent injury, and make us recover quicker for the next workout!
Not only are stretching and rest vital for recovery, but we can do some passive and active recovery in other forms of treatment as well. Massage, compression garments, immersion, contrast water therapy, infrared heat, and cryotherapy are all great ways to care for overworked muscles that may be suffering from inflammation, exhaustion, soreness, and damage.
Taking days off is where results are built
We tend to feel that the only time we are making progress is when we are working out intensely, but the real change happens off the clock, when our muscles are recovering. If we don’t give ourselves that necessary recovery time, we won’t see the development in our muscles and the beautiful benefits of our labor! It’s important to create an environment for healing in our bodies so that we stay beautifully operational.