In my years as a personal trainer and yoga teacher, one of the things I almost always implement with clients and students is to include a cool down or relaxation exercise at the end of each session.
I incorporate it in functional fitness routines and holistic wellness plans.
We do need the high impact cardio exercises to get our heart and lungs pumping, the muscle building resistance training to build muscle and maintain bone mass, but, a very important part of a well-rounded wellness plan is the cool down and relaxation exercise.
Rest and recovery is a vital part of a healthy body. It helps the muscles grow, it brings the heart rate down, and, it also helps the body physiology to come out of fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system) and move into rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system).
Cooling down helps to regulate blood flow in the body, deliver oxygen to the muscles and to mentally integrate your training session.
Cool downs help prevent injuries. I like to have clients (and myself) do yoga postures and light stretching exercises, followed by a full progressive relaxation.
It is especially important to include a relaxation time in your workouts if you are someone who is “go, go, go,” all the time, has a high stress job or lifestyle, or someone who has high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, depression and other tension-related factors.
Doing gentle twists can help to eliminate waste products from the body and reduce buildup of trigger points in your body.
Seated yoga can be the perfect option for cooling down: seated forward bend, easy pose, cowface pose, shoulder releasing postures such as seated eagle with your arms, gentle twist, rock the baby, happy baby all release tense muscle and enhance relaxation.
Some tools that can assist with your cool down are a foam roller, one of my favorite items and easy to bring with you.
Bands can help with a gentle stretch. While laying on your back, bring the band around your foot and straighten your leg gently toward the sky.
Sitting on top of a meditation pillow or bolster can be effective. Let your knees fall which releases the hips, or use it in easy pose to rest your head for a wonderful hip and lower back release.
Medicine balls are another amazing tool for relaxation and cooling down.
I often use a medicine ball between my shoulder blades and lay on top of it on a mat. Fabulous relief and gets deep into the tissues.
A towel can be useful for neck releasing postures. There are many simple pieces of equipment that can be incredibly beneficial to a cool down.
Be sure to hydrate well and drink plenty of water or electrolyte enhanced beverages (watch the sugar and chemical content in some drinks!) and refuel your engine with a light, healthy, balanced meal once you have completed your cool down and relaxation.
Liz Jones is the owner of Liz Jones Wellness LLC, in Hunt and Rockwall counties, and is building Jones Wellness Ranch north of Greenville. She can be reached at Liz@LizJones.co or through her website at LizJones.co.