What makes a good cool down?
A good cool-down after exercise can include stretches and gentle movements such as lunges that help to ease tension in the muscles and bring down the heart rate, body temperature, and breathing. Good cool-down exercises for any activity should focus on all areas of the body.
First off: Walk!
Before you do any stretching, it is quite important to get your heartbeat down without coming to an abrupt stop after exercise. The best way to do this is to walk – even if it's just around your living room after a home workout video!
When practising cool-down exercises, I like to start at the top of my body and work my way down. This way all the muscles get a good stretch and no area is likely to be forgotten. So, begin by stretching your neck.
Simply lower your right ear towards your right shoulder very slowly, taking care not to lift the shoulder to the ear. Repeat on the left side.
Next, recentre your head and then point your chin towards your chest. Hold for a few seconds, then point your chin to the sky. Hold, then repeat so that the movement resembles a slow nod.
Next, we move onto the shoulders. This is particularly important after activities that put a lot of strain on this area, such as weightlifting.
Start by doing a few simple shoulder shrugs – take care to do this very slowly.
Afterwards, bring your right arm over the left-hand side of your body (check out the image above for guidance!). From there bring your left arm up so that it hooks over your right elbow. Hold for 10 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Ease any tension in the back with a few easy stretches that focus on this area.
Start by placing your feet hip-width apart, with your feet facing forwards. Place your left hand on your hip then stretch your right arm above your head. Lean slightly to the left, pulsing the body slightly to see if you can stretch a little further. Keep the knees and shoulders relaxed as you move
We tend to tense up our hands when doing activities like running or cycling, whilst sports like tennis can also put a bit of strain on this area. This shows why it is important that we don't forget to stretch out the wrists.
Begin by shaking out your hands and wrists for a few seconds. You can do the same with the legs to get rid of any tension.
Next, stretch your right arm out in front with your palm facing upwards. Use your left hand to pull down gently on your right fingers, just as the image above shows. Hold for a few seconds then repeat on the other side.
Another area that doesn't always get a lot of attention is the hips so I aim to rectify that with this fun stretch!
Place your feet hip-width apart, with your toes slightly tuned out. Bend your knees until you are in a comfortable squatting position then use the elbows of both arms to push back on the inner thighs/knees. This opens up the hips and gives them a good old stretch!
Hamstring stretches are really important after activities like running and cycling which put a lot of strain on this area.
Begin by bending your right leg towards your bottom then grab your foot with your right hand. Pull ever so gently on your foot until you feel a slight stretch. Repeat on the other side. You can stretch out your left arm to give yourself a bit of balance, or hold onto a nearby wall for support.
For this next one, all you have to do is lean forward and touch your toes (or as close to them as you can get!). After holding this posture for a few seconds, you can flex your toes towards the sky for an extra little stretch on the calf muscles.
Finally, step forwards with your right foot. Bend your right knee, keeping the left leg straight. You can use your hands to push down on the right leg gently or, alternatively, spread your right arm out backwards and left arm forwards for an extra stretch! Hold then repeat on the other side.
To finish up, here is a super simple stretch for the ankles.
Standing close to a wall, push your right foot against it whilst the left foot remains on the ground. Hold for a few seconds then switch to do this on the other side.
I hope you've enjoyed these super simple cool-down exercises and will return to them after future workouts!