Swimmers have busy schedules and often have to cram in a training session as the sun rises or sets, or both. The cool-down portion of the workout tends to be the first thing we’re tempted to skip when we’re short on time. While it’s easy to jump out of the pool and continue with your day, taking the time to complete your cool-down will pay off, time and time again. At the end of your training, commit to tacking on 5-10 minutes of laps at a leisure pace, in addition to any other cool-down exercises your coach recommends. Here are four reasons why your future self will thank you for finishing your workout by cooling down.
Regulate blood flow:
Cooling down allows the body to regulate blood flow, and gradually recover regular blood pressure and can help swimmers avoid what some refer to as “lead legs”. Blood pooling (“venous pooling”) can occur when the body goes from an all-out swim immediately to a state of rest causing a buildup of blood in the veins. As the movement of blood slows within the vascular system at the end of a workout and there is less available pressure to move the blood, which can lead to a build-up as blood becomes somewhat trapped between valves. Blood pooling might cause sensations of lightheadedness, or dizziness, or even fainting. In addition, cooling down helps to “clean” muscles by eliminating lactate and other waste products accumulated during high-intensity exercise.
Return to your resting heart rate:
Cooling down properly allows a raised heart rate to return to its resting rate safely. Check your heart rate before you begin swimming, so you can make sure you’ve reached your resting heart rate before you end your cool down. About 5-10 minutes into your cool down, check your heart rate to see if it has returned to normal if it hasn’t continue cooling down for another 5 minutes by tacking on a few additional laps at a leisurely pace. Returning your heart rate to normal allows you to restore your physiological systems to baseline and bring down your body temperature. This helps your body reset and prepare for the next round of exercise, which is crucial for any swimmer doing doubles or competing in multiple races in one day.
A cool-down routine that includes stretching and is aimed at improving your range of motion, joint mobility and flexibility, will only help to improve your swimming technique. When your joints are able to move through their full range of motion, you’ll be able to consistently improve your technique, and ultimately your overall performance. You’ll get the most out of stretching when your muscles are warm and after a few cool-down laps. Improved flexibility will also reduce the occurrence of cramps and injuries, which can keep you from swimming at your best in your next training session, or race.
Cool-downs give your body the chance to recover, which is key to getting the best benefits out of your work out, and ensuring your body is prepped and ready to perform for your next race. Stay hydrated with water or a recovery shake, if you’re down working out for the next few hours. Getting the right fluids, including electrolytes, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and proteins helps to fuel your body to repair and broken down muscles and tissue restore your glucose and glycogen levels. Top athletes know when to recover, and most will agree this should start as soon as the work ends. Kick-start your recovery by keeping your recovery drink of choice, next to your water bottle, and sip it during your cool down.
Studies continue to show improved performance for swimmers who cool down between races, so you don’t want to skip this step for optimal performance.
- http://www.livestrong.com/article/414362-why-does-the-body-have-to-cool-down-after-exercise/ http://www.swimmingscience.net/2013/04/arm-warm-downs-necessary-in-swimming.html
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