8 Surprising Cool-Down Hacks
Intense sessions and rising temperatures can add time to your bounce-back. Try these smart tricks.
Redness, sweating, dehydration: the side effects of warm-weather workouts are real. And the cool-down—the very thing designed to prevent these dangers—is easy to skip: After all, post-workout, you’re squeezing in a quick shower and onto the next thing, sprinting back to your office or out to a business dinner.
But going from 60 to 0 is no way to end a workout, especially in the summer. Not only do you wind up sweating through your change of clothes (and sporting a red face to match), you could be putting yourself in harm’s way: “Abruptly stopping after an exercise routine can be detrimental to the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system,” says Brittani Cookinham, a performance physical therapist and certified athletic trainer at EXOS, an integrated performance training, nutrition, and physical therapy institute for elite and professional athletes.
To facilitate the quickest and most effective cool-down, employ these savvy expert strategies:
Skip the pre-workout coffee (or sriracha)
Caffeine and spicy foods pre-exercise can increase the release of neurotransmitters in the brain that can stimulate sweat glands, says Michael J. Ryan, Ph.D., associate professor of exercise science at Fairmont State University in West Virginia. This is why some people start to sweat after eating spicy foods. The foods don’t actually raise the body’s temperature, but trick the brain into thinking the body is hotter than it is, he says.
Pre-cool your body
Try blasting the A.C. or sit under the vent at your office before you start your session. “The cooler your body temperature is before you start exercising, the longer the delay before you start sweating,” says Ryan.
Schedule your fluids
“Dehydration is considered when 1 to 2 percent of one’s body weight is lost,” says Cookinham. “Dehydration greater than 3 percent begins to negatively affect function of the physiological system.” Fight it with this drinking regimen from Cookinham: 17 to 20 fluid ounces two to three hours prior to exercise; 7 to 10 fluid ounces 15 minutes before exercise; 7 to 10 fluid ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during the workout; then, post-exercise, make sure to replenish the accumulation of fluid loss within 2 hours.
Put your drink on ice
A recent study from the University of Ottawa found people who drank ice-cold water before and during exercise sweat less than those who drank room-temperature water, explains Ryan. “The cold water cools thermoreceptors in the abdomen region that tell your brain to decrease sweating.”
Add an active cool-down
With exercise comes increased cardiac output, blood circulation, and core body temperature. But to maintain your body’s homeostasis and your organs’ functioning post-workout, “this core temperature needs to stay regulated,” says Cookinham. To do that, lower your intensity to a jog or march if you were running (instead of simply hopping off the treadmill) or incorporate dynamic and static stretching once you’re done, she says. You’ll lower your heart rate and, in turn, your core temp.
Foam-roll away redness
One of the ways your body attempts to reduce its core body temperature is to move the warm blood to the surface of the skin through dilated blood vessels, explains Cookinham. This can often cause a flush or a red face. But a sudden cessation of exercise can cause this increased blood to pool within the extremities, she adds. “That means a decreased venous return—or blood flow—back to the heart.”
So roll out—even if you’re in a rush. It cools your core down by redistributing blood flow away from your skin and back to other muscles and your heart, says Los Angeles-based traine, Michelle Lovitt.
Cool your neck
A cold compress on the back of your neck or on your forehead isn’t just an old wive’s tale: “It will bring down your core temperature quite a bit,” says Lovitt. The proximity to the brain is something your body can perceive very quickly—plus, your head is where most of the heat from your body escapes.
After a cool shower, forgo your towel, suggests Ryan. “As the cool water evaporates from your skin, it cools your body even faster.”