Recovery is king when it comes to results.
If you’re not recovering, it doesn’t matter what you do in the gym.
While research and years of experience has shown that fancy supplements, shakes, and post-workout nutrition protocols are more or less a waste of time and resources for most people, there are some important steps everyone should take to enhance recovery.
This starts with the cooldown.
The cooldown begins when the main part of training, whether it’s resistance or aerobic work, ends. From a physiological perspective, during training the body is in fight-or-flight mode. Stress hormones are high and the body is in a sympathetic state, with all energy and blood directed to fueling activity. This is not an optimal state to be in for recovery!
The cool down plays an important role in helping transition back to a parasympathetic, or rest-and-digest, state. This means the body is ready to repair, digest food, and adapt from training. To effectively cool down, it’s important not to just abruptly jump from your training session back to the daily grind and stressors of life. Implementing a post-training cool down routine is the perfect transition from the gym back to life.
My three favorite ways to cool down are all designed to promote blood flow and a parasympathetic state, which is essential for recovery. Easy aerobic work is a great way to move blood and help your heart rate come down. My favorites include a walk outside in the sun or easy pedalling on an Assault bike. These activities are your best bets because they are low-impact.
Static stretching, yoga flows, and soft tissue work like foam rolling are also great options for blood flow and supporting functional range of motion. Finally, breath work is a fantastic way to create a relaxed state and connect with your core.
A couple of other cool down considerations include hydration and nutrition.
Sipping water throughout the day, during, and after your workout is essential for proper hydration. And despite what bro science tells you, it’s not necessary to slam a protein shake within 30 seconds of finishing your workout. Instead, it’s a good idea to enjoy a balanced meal 1-2 hours after training, when you are relaxed and completely cooled off from your session.
One added benefit of a cool down is a moment of reflection. Taking 5-10 minutes to think about what you learned during your training, what challenges you faced, and how each element affected you is a great way to create alignment between your training, your goals, and your life.
So rather than racing out of the gym and on to the next thing,
take a little time to embrace the cool down!