Every time a Kaia Girl shows up for class, she can expect to be challenged by workouts that focus on all the major muscle groups in her body that will often leave her well spent by the end. She warms up, works hard, but when it comes time to cool down, we hear things like: "Thanks, Coach. I gotta go!" or "I'll stretch when I get home."
Too often, we can treat the cool-down as an afterthought instead of an essential part of the workout routine. We do our bodies a disservice when we rush through the cool-down or skip it altogether.
What is a cool-down? A cool-down is any activity (in our case, static stretching or holding a stretch for a period of time) that helps in the recovery and physical repair of the body after exercise. When you stretch your muscles on a regular basis, they become lengthened and allow for more range of motion and flexibility. Other benefits include a reduced risk for injury, a decrease in muscle soreness, and relief from muscle cramps. Stretching also allows the body's muscles to build elasticity and repair from exercise.
Additional benefits of a good cool down:
Safely slows down your heart rate
Lowers body temperature
Improves blood flow
Relaxes and strengthens muscles
Increases power and endurance
Decreases muscle stiffness
Reduces stress and promotes relaxation
Cool-down exercises should focus on slow movements and static stretching, allowing the heart rate to return to normal. Some of the muscles you will want to stretch: quadriceps, calf, glutes, hamstring, inner thigh, hips, upper body, triceps, shoulders, and lower back.
Some things to remember when cooling down:
Stretch when limbs, muscles, and joints are still warm.
Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
Focus on the muscles worked.
Take slow, deep breaths—exhale as you stretch, inhale while you hold.
The stretch should have tension but not cause pain.
Move quickly from one stretch to the next—no rest in between.
Do not bounce.
The cool-down is an essential part of any workout. Not taking the time to stretch properly can hinder muscle recovery and possibly lead to injury over time. Next time a Kaia girl tries to skip out early, challenge her to prioritize those last five minutes and take the time to cool-down and make sure she reaps all the rewards of her hard workout.