Cooling down in winter? Yes, it is still important!

Cooling down, often referred to warm-down, is needed to restore one’s body to its normal temperature after exercise. 

You have just returned from an outdoor run in 5°C and the only thing you want to do is jump in a hot shower. This may seem like a good idea, but experts recommend a proper cool-down – even, and especially, in cold weather.

To understand why cool-down is so important and cannot be left ‘to the weather’ to decide, we need to take a look at what actually happens during the cool-down process.

Just as a warm-up routine gradually increases your heart rate for exercise, it will gradually decrease during the cool-down process until it reaches its normal rate. Cooling down also decreases your risk of injury and will help to ‘stretch’ you out nicely until your next training session. Further, stretching while your muscles are still warm will assist in the elongation of the muscle fibers that have been under strain and contracting during your workout.

Therefore, even though you may feel it isn’t necessary to cool-down after training on a cold day, it is even more important to cool down the colder the weather is. If we do not cool-down, regardless of the weather, our heart rate will return to its normal pace far too suddenly.  This will lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure which can cause light headedness and dizziness and, in extremely cold weather, even fainting.

If we do not cool-down, the muscle fibres that have been under strain while training will stay in a contracted position for much longer and even longer on cold days, leading to pain and discomfort in one’s muscles and joints. With a proper cool-down process, there is a gradual return to normal blood flow to the muscles that assists with the removal of lactic acid and other waste products accumulated in the muscles during high intensity exercise.

The cool-down section of your training or workout does not have to be long. Anything from 3-10 minutes will suffice and it is largely dependent on the type and intensity of your work-out. If you have been for a run, a gradual decrease in pace and a few extra meters of jogging at a slower pace will ensure your heart rate returns to normal gradually.  If it’s cold outside, move indoors and carry out a good stretching and deep breathing session until you feel relaxed and your heart rate has returned to normal. Using a topical gel, such as Deep Freeze, will also assist both the muscles and body temperature to return to normal.

Therefore, in answer to the question: “Do I need to cool down in winter?” … The answer is a resounding YES! Always cool down. Your body will thank you for it during the next training session, and for many years to come. 

Article written by EPT – The Ultimate Sports Recovery Experts