You’re on the Air Assault Bike or Rower at the studio, pounding out those last lingering seconds of your Metabolic Finisher. Your heart is pounding, muscles burning, and lungs trying to get as much breath as possible. Time’s up! You breathe a sigh of relief and hop (or slowly stumble) off the machine, ready to pack up your gym bag and head home.
Did you know after physical activity, your heart is still beating faster than normal, your body temperature is higher and your blood vessels are dilated? It’s important to gradually decrease your heart rate to ease the stress, keep your muscles moving to help pump out lactic acid and other toxins, and help keep a good flow of oxygen to your whole body, including that ever-important organ called your brain. Yeah, cool downs are good.
Here’s what we recommend: Walk slowly for 2-5 minutes. The movement of your lower leg muscles will actually help the blood be pumped back up to your heart & noggin and will help your body regain proper chemistry so you’ll not only recover better, but you’ll feel a ton better the hours and days following. A good rule-of-thumb is to walk slowly, taking deep slow breaths, until you reach a heart rate pace that allows you to talk and have conversation with ease. For most people, this means letting your heart rate gradually come down to 120 bpm or below. You can measure this via a heart rate monitor or by simply putting your two fingers on your wrist or carotid artery and counting how many beats you feel in 20 seconds and multiplying by 3 to get beats per minute.
You can apply this cool down recommendation with any mode of exercise. Instead of getting home from a run and immediately stopping, taking off your shoes, and sitting down, try regressing from a run –> jog –> brisk walk –> very slow walk until your heart rate has come down to a easy conversational-talking pace (120 or below) and your muscles feel more relaxed. Then, and only then, should your cool down be considered complete.
You will experience a huge difference in the way you feel – less taxed, less sore, and more prepared for exercise the next day.