Why You Need to Stay for the Cooldown

It’s confession time! Who’s snuck out early from class, skipping the cooldown? Do you let your mind wander to what’s next on your schedule instead, hastily fidgeting through the stretches? Does stretching demoralize you because you’re not great at it yet? We hear you, and we’ve been there. It’s easy to refocus back into our hectic daily lives or shy away from things that bore or intimidate us. However, what you do in the five minutes post-workout dictates how well you recover AND how well you’ll do in your next workout!

Did you know that a proper cooldown does as much for your body as the actual workout? Our fitness instructors and online resources talk a lot about the warmup, but it’s actually the cooldown that helps you see and feel your results faster. While it won’t prevent you from feeling sore, it will help speed up the recovery process along by easing tension and helping you become more mobile, and here’s how:

Mental Clarity

If you’ve ever felt lethargic or even dizzy after your work out, the fact that you skipped the cooldown may have had played a part in that feeling. Taking a few minutes post-workout to breathe deeply will help your heart rate lower back to normal, and regulate blood flow evenly to your entire body. When you finish a challenging run, your blood rushes to the muscles it needs most in your lower body to deliver the energy it needs. When you stop abruptly, it causes you to feel lightheaded, leaving you feeling uncentered. Taking a minute to pause and breathe will help you pull all the great benefits out of your workout, including a happy and confident mindset!

Mobility

While static stretching before your workout can help get the blood flowing, it’s actually best to stretch post-workout in order to see some gains in flexibility. Stretching while your muscles are warm helps prevent you from straining them and causing injuries later on in future workouts. As you make it a regular habit, you’ll also begin to see improvements in your posture and exercises. Say hello to deeper squats and higher kicks!

Strength Gains

If you workout regularly and skip out on the cooldown, your muscles will not only have trouble recovering, but they won’t grow properly as you begin to get stronger. How so? Our muscle fibers lengthen and shorten during a workout, putting tension on them. Without a few minutes to release them by stretching, you’ll continue to stack more stress onto them, which can lead to a pulled or torn muscle!

When the clock runs out on your next class or gym session, don’t bolt! Instead, take the challenge and stay mentally strong for a few minutes to pay your body back. Your body will thank both in the short- and long-term. 

Mandy Gragg is a New York City-based certified personal trainer/group fitness instructor and an active fashion and beauty blogger.