Apr 5, 2018
Cooling Down

When time is of the essence, student-athletes may rush off the field and skip their cool-down. In an article for AceFitness.org, Jacqueline Crockford, MS, CSCS, warns of the medical consequences of skipping this last step of practice.

“A cool-down should fill the last five to 15 minutes of your workout and include static (held for 30 seconds or so) stretches of the muscle groups you just worked,” Crockford writes.

Because muscles are “very warm and pliable” by the end of a workout, cooling down is a must in preventing injuries. “Blood pooling” is a top concern as athletes can become lightheaded and may experience fainting. Crockford also believes this “effect” is responsible for “many fitness facility accidents” that occur in locker rooms.

“When exercise is stopped abruptly, this can cause the blood to pool in the lower extremities and slow its return back to the heart and, subsequently, the brain,” she explains.

Crockford also warns of “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)” that can result from not cooling down correctly. The condition generally develops 24-48 hours after physical activity and can indicate overtraining, illness, or injury in an athlete. In addition, a proper recovery allows an athlete to reap the full benefits of “feel good hormones” produced during physical activity and aids in freeing the body of toxins.

“After an intense bout of exercise there is accumulation of lactic acid within the system. It takes time for this byproduct of exercise to be ‘buffered’ out,” Crockford explains. “10 minutes of light exercise along with stretching is a great way to begin clearing the lactic acid from the body.”

In a feature for Stack.com, Jeff Howser, men’s soccer speed and conditioning coach at Duke University, works in roughly eight minutes of “walking, skipping, and light jogging” at the end of a session before having the Blue Devils perform these two stretches:

  • Three-Way Groin/Hip Stretch: Howser says to start by squatting with the arms overhead, keeping the hips down and weight back. Hold this pose for 15-20 seconds, then rotate to the left, place the right knee on the ground, and push the hips forward for another 10-15 seconds. Lastly, rotate to the right, place the left knee on the ground, and keep the hips forward for a final 10-15 seconds. Repeat twice in each position. “Avoid leaning too far forward in center position,” advised Howser. “Focus on full range of motion during each stretch variation.”

  • Straddle Stretch: Begin by positioning the feet a step wider than shoulder-width apart. Then, bending at the waist, stretch down until the hands are touching the ground. To increase the intensity, lift the toes and sit back on the heels as you stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. “Hold each position so muscles can release and relax. Use a straight-knee posture to stretch behind the knees,” the coach suggests.

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