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Plus-Size Fitness Excerpt from Don't Weight

Cool-Down: More Information

Your cool-down can be the same activity as your warm-up. If you were walking, walk slowly for your cool-down. (Actually, you can use walking as a cool-down for almost any activity if you prefer.) If you were swimming, then swim at a slow and leisurely pace for your cool-down. On fitness videos, there should always be a cool-down built right into the workout. If you use fitness equipment, you may feel comfortable to cool-down with a very low-key modified version of the activity. However, you may feel more comfortable if you get off of the machine and cool-down by walking around the house or doing the cool-down from a fitness video. At any good fitness club, every workout should be followed by a cool-down.

Now, you may ask, why all this fuss about a cool-down at the end of a workout? Because it is essential to your comfort and your well being. If you workout and then feel stiff and sore, you will be less likely to workout tomorrow. (Even people who cope with chronic pain from fibromyalgia or arthritis or other conditions that result in almost constant pain, will feel LESS pain after a workout when they do a quality cool-down.) There are good reasons that doing your cool-down will make you more comfortable, reduce pain, and increase your well being. It may also help you to get fit faster!

I have something outrageous to tell you. The following statement, however outrageous, is true: You do not get fit from exercising. That is right. Exercise is not what increases your fitness. Exercising taxes your muscles and your ability to use oxygen efficiently. That is good. But, that is not what makes your body more fit. If you do not get fit from exercise, what actually does increase your fitness?

RECOVERY from exercise is what increases your fitness.

Yes, it is when your body recovers from exercise that you undergo the physiological changes that are indicative of improved fitness. Your muscle cells are able to use oxygen faster and more efficiently, resulting in increased stamina. When exercising, your muscle cells are challenged by lifting, pulling, or pushing weights (often your body weight.) As your muscles recover from this challenge, your muscles get stronger. Keep in mind that your body actually goes through the physiological changes that result in increased fitness as you RECOVER from exercise. Can you see why your cool-down helps your fitness so much?

The cool-down begins the recovery process. Often, when you workout, lactic acid builds up in your muscles. This can lead to sore muscles the next day or two after your workout. When you cool-down properly, you encourage circulation. This improved circulation can help wash away the build up of lactic acid. A good cool-down can help you to have FEWER sore muscles because you are left with LESS lactic acid in your muscles.

When you workout, your blood vessels dilate in order to send more oxygenated blood to your working muscles. This is especially true of the tiny blood vessels called capillaries. If you workout and then just stop, the blood vessels remain dilated. This can be a problem, especially in the lower extremities. When your blood vessels remain dilated it can cause blood to pool in your feet and legs. At the end of your workout, you need to cool-down so that your blood vessels can return to normal size.

What if you skip your cool-down? Your blood vessels would be dilated. Gravity would pull the blood downward. There would be a lot of blood in your lower extremities. How would that blood get back up to your heart and lungs? It would travel through your veins. There are no muscle fibers in the walls of the veins. Your veins cannot "squeeze" the blood back up to your heart and lungs for fresh oxygen. Your veins rely on the rhythmic contraction of the muscles around the veins to help circulation. The rhythmic motion of the muscles around your veins is what helps send the blood back to your heart and lungs. If you skipped your cool-down, your veins would remain overfull with blood and could become distended. This could exacerbate or contribute to varicose veins. Even if your veins are normal, this pooling of blood is not good for you.

Some reasons to cool-down:

  • Begin the recovery process that increases fitness
  • Help wash away lactic acid and reduce muscle soreness
  • Help tiny blood vessels like capillaries to return to normal size
  • Prevent blood pooling in veins of legs and feet
  • Increase circulation of blood back to heart and lungs

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By Kelly Bliss M.Ed., A.C.E. author of Don’t Weight, Eat Healthy & Get Moving NOW!
Call 610-394-2547, Email kelly@kellybliss.com
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