Even though it is often given less priority, the cool down is just as important is the warm up.
This final part of the training session is vital to speeding up the recovery process. The cool down reduces sympathetic activation and stimulates the parasympathetic system to promote recovery. Better recovery increases training ability and decreases risk of injury. Start the cool down by performing some form of active recovery with little-to-no eccentric load. The exercise should target the muscles used during the training session. Do this active recovery for at least 3-5 minutes. This will help flush out any metabolic byproducts that were produced using the anaerobic system.
At the end of the 3-5 minute period, focus on lowering the heart rate to around 120bpm by adjusting posture, breathing, pace, and facial expression. After 1-2 minutes, transition to 1-2 minutes of coordinated breathing exercises, such as “boxed breathing’ or PRI exercises. The simple boxed breathing procedure is:
- 4 second inhale
- 4 second pause
- 4 second exhale
- 4 second pause
This breathing procedure can be done face-down with knees tucked or face-up in the fetal position.
During this period, your goal is to drive the heart rate down as much as possible to turn off the sympathetic stress response.
Once heart rate is lowered and muscles are less tense, proceed to foam rolling. Use a lighter pressure when foam rolling at the end of the workout than you would at the beginning of the workout.
If heart rate spikes while foam rolling, the pressure is too great and the sympathetic system is re-activating.
Finish the cool down by stretching.