How to cool down after your workout

In training management, the time devoted to cool down is very important because, although brief, it is a phase in which you accompany the body to a resting situation after enduring both physical and psychological stress. By devoting a few minutes to cool down each time, it will be easier to activate the recovery processes. Just as you get used to doing some warm-up before the core work of your workout, similarly you should not neglect for lack of time and habit the last phase of any physical activity.

Cool down represents the set of all activities that are carried out after a performance (psychophysical load) and are intended to bring the body back to a state of relaxation. A small phase as important for the muscles as for the mind.

Why is devoting a few minutes to cool down essential? What are the goals of cool down after a run and more generally after any workout?

Cool down is the first phase of recovery

Skipping this last phase therefore means a poor start to posttraining recovery. The first goal is to bring metabolism back toward a level gradually closer to basal. As you well know, this cannot happen in a few minutes-especially after very high loads-because in some cases it can take hours before returning to the pretraining state. This “imbalance” represents a positive effect of the training stimulus that over time will, on the one hand, make you stronger and more able to handle physical stress and, on the other hand, improve your body composition by enhancing your muscle mass and helping you consume your fat mass through a more efficient and active metabolism. While cooling down you are able to lower your body temperature and dispose of the products of your metabolism such as lactic acid. You can therefore easily understand how abruptly stopping an intense workout would greatly lengthen this first phase of the body’s detoxification.

One reason to include cool down in your workout routine is its role in lowering your heart rate. When you exercise, your heart rate increases and your heart pumps more blood to help transport oxygen and all the other substances needed by your muscles that are working at a higher intensity than when you are resting. Conversely, when you finish training, your heart rate should slow down to the level of recovery and rest. This process should be done gradually because if, on the contrary, it happens too quickly, you can run into inconvenience. A sudden STOP of activity leads to an immediate drop in heart rate that could cause blood pressure to plummet. In these situations you may experience dizziness and in extreme cases even fainting.

Devoting at least 5 minutes to defatigue will allow blood pressure to drop gradually, reducing the risks of unfavorable situations after training or after a demanding race.

Wards off injuries and relaxes

Just like warming up, cooling down after exercise has tremendous benefits in preventing injuries such as muscle tears and strains. In fact, after very intense activity your muscles need to be stretched, and the best time to do this is when they are still warm. If you don’t do at least 5 minutes of very mild running and some stretching exercises after a long or very long run, you risk greatly extending recovery time and reducing some of the benefits of the workout.

A few minutes of cooling down-also promotes mental relaxation. Take good care of breathing so that both muscles and brain are well oxygenated. Every workout has positive effects on both mind and body. When your metabolism begins to slow down, you enter a relaxed state of mind, and your brain begins to release dopamine and serotonin the two hormones that make you feel good and less stressed at the end of physical activity.

The duration

The characteristics and duration of cool down depend on several factors. The duration should be between 5 and 15 minutes maximum. Just enough to get the benefits without producing an additional burden on the body. The longer and more strenuous the workout, the more complete the cool down should be. Every activity should be done at low and very low intensity whether it is running or stretching. It is a process of physical and mental relaxation and not additional stress. After a very long run, alternating walking with stretching exercises for a few minutes can be a good solution.

More trained athletes are able to perform longer and more structured defatigue on different activities. For novices, a walk is more than enough to restore a relaxed state. Then there are other specific factors that modify the characteristics of the last phase of each workout. Non-young athletes need very light and prolonged defatiguing activities unlike younger athletes. Even when it is very hot, it is not advisable to do long cool downs so as not to stress the body with further exposure to the sun and high temperatures. A warm bath in the winter or a cold shower in the summer can be considered as a completion of the defatigue phase.

Another reason why you need to carve out a few minutes to cool down after each workout is for muscle recovery. Cool down in fact reduces the risk of suffering from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) typical of the hours following physical exertion. The goal of defatigue is also to reduce the feeling of pain and muscle stiffness that prevent you from effectively engaging in your next workout. If you want to work out every day or nearly every day, you have one more reason to do defatigue well. In fact, in this way you can reduce the recovery time between workouts.

Always devote the necessary time to both warm-up and cool-down. While it is true that the intense part of the workout is the part that rewards you the most, it is equally true that a good warm-up is the basis for the outcome of any exercise, and a good run-down will allow you to recover sooner by maximizing the effects of the training stimuli.


(Main image credits: Gladkov on


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