It’s very tempting to head straight for the shower as soon as you’ve finished your workout. For one, most of us are against the clock when it comes to fitting in a training session and, for two, we’re all eager to start the recovery process with some food and a nice sit-down.
However, taking ten minutes or so to warm down (also known, curiously enough, as cooling down) will do you a world of good.
“If you have done an intense training session it is likely that your heart rate will be high, blood will be pumping around to your muscles fast and you will be out of breath,” says Kim Ngo, trainer at fitness studio 1Rebel. “If you suddenly stop and don’t take a moment to cool down you risk fainting, dizziness and blood pooling. To prevent this from happening you can slowly cool down by walking or lightly jogging for five to ten minutes.
“To protect yourself from future injury you can also use your cool-down to perform some static stretches. Your body will already be warm so it’s a good time to work on lengthening your muscles, which can help avoid injuries that inflexible people are prone to.”
Ngo recommends working through the following series of stretches during your cool-down. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
1 Knees to chest stretch
Lie on your back and bring both knees to your chest. Place your hands on your lower legs to help hold the position.
2 Supine spinal twist
Lie on your back and extend your right arm out to the side, perpendicular to your body. Bend your right knee and bring it over your other leg. Use your left hand to gently push your right knee towards the floor. Turn your head to the right and look towards your outstretched hand. Keep your shoulders on the ground throughout. Repeat on the other side.
3 Child’s pose
Kneel on the floor with your big toes touching and your knees spread to around hip-width apart. Lean your torso forwards and bring your forehead down to touch the ground. Extend your arms in front of you.
4 Child’s pose with reach
In child’s pose position, reach your hands out to one side. Hold the stretch, then repeat on the other side.
5 Thread the needle
On your hands and knees, bring your right arm under your left and out to the side, lowering your right shoulder to the ground. Look over to your right hand so your cheek is resting on the ground. Hold the stretch, then repeat on the other side.
On your hands and knees, bring your right leg up and place it on the floor on its side so the knee is by your right hand and the ankle is in front of your left knee (or your stomach if your muscles are tight). Extend your left leg back and point your toes. Walk your hands forwards and bring your torso down over your right leg. You can support yourself on your forearms if bringing your chest to the ground is uncomfortable. Repeat the stretch on the other side.
7 Lying quad stretch
Lie face down and bring your right foot up by bending at the knee. Reach back with your right hand and take hold of your right foot. Pull your foot towards your bum and hold, feeling the stretch in the front of your thigh. Repeat on the other side. You can also try this exercise lying on your side.
8 Frog stretch
Start on your hands and knees, then move your knees and feet further out to the sides, lowering onto your forearms. Lower your hips towards the ground until you feel the stretch in your hips and inner thighs.
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9 Hurdler hamstring stretch
Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee and position the sole of your right foot against the inside of your left thigh. Bend forwards from your waist until you feel the stretch in your left hamstring. Repeat on the other side.
Start in a press-up position with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your hands and feet in the same position while you push your hips back and raise them as high as you can, finishing with your legs and arms extended.
11 Kneeling behind the back stretch
Kneel and interlace your fingers together behind your back with your arms straight. Raise your arms behind you, feeling the stretch in your chest.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.