The cool-down is a lot less discussed in the sports science and fitness world, yet it still serves a very important function. The cool-down is a time for reflection and recovery from the workout you have performed, and an opportunity to clear the muscles of all the by-products that our metabolisms build up during a session. It is a time to mentally and physically unwind and to enjoy the feel-good sensation that working out brings.
For that reason, the cool-down is performed on the floor. This allows quicker recovery, better return of blood to the heart, and a deeper sense of relaxation. During this routine (which you can perform as many times as needed), focus on deep rhythmic breathing and allow any remaining tension to leave the body. Perform each movement five to 10 times, stretching gently and with the minimum of effort. Combined with your essential stretches, this can make an excellent stretching session in its own right, bringing deep relaxation and a feeling of being energised; ideal after a long, hard day.
Supine lower back – lower back, hips
Do not perform this stretch if you have any disc problems with the lower back.
Draw both your legs up towards your chest, taking hold of them with your arms.
Gently pull your knees in towards your chest.
Breathe out as you perform the movement, feeling your back relax.
Lying spinal rotation – spinal rotators/trunk
Start with your feet flat on the floor, with knees and hips both flexed.
Keeping your shoulders on the floor, allow your legs to slowly drop to the side.
Breathe out as you lower.
Return to the middle and lower to the opposite side.
Active lying hamstring – posterior thigh/hip muscles
Take hold of one leg behind the knee and bring it in towards your chest.
Keeping your pelvis in a neutral position, slowly extend your leg towards the ceiling until you feel the stretch in the back of your leg.
Pretzel position – hip rotators
Start with both feet flat on the floor, with hips and knees flexed.
Cross your right leg over your left.
Reach around the left leg, and take a hold of it behind the knee.
Gently lift your leg upwards and in towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your bum.
Ease into the movement and gently repeat before changing sides.
Round the clock – trunk
Lie on your side with your knees bent and drawn towards your chest, and both hands together palm to palm.
Using your top hand, slowly trace a line around your head, as if it were the big hand on a large clock.
Allow your shoulders to open out and your trunk to slowly rotate over onto your back. Keep the movement slow and gentle.
Spinal flexion press-up: this is for the thoracic spine and lumbar region. Do not perform this movement if you are suffering any acute back problems. Start this movement on your front. Place your hands by your shoulders, palms on the floor. Take a deep breath in and, as you breathe out, slowly press with your hands and lift your body upwards. Keep your pelvis on the floor; do not allow your hips to lift. As you press up, gently ease your chest forwards.
Cats and dogs – thoracic spine Start on all fours with your knees and hands directly under your hips and shoulders.
Let your chest sink to the floor and your lower back to arch. Feel your tummy move towards the floor. Look up to the ceiling as you do this.
Then pull your tummy inwards and upwards; round your upper back and move through a full range of motion. Let gravity take your head, and relax the neck muscles.
Quadruped rocks – trunk/back
From the same position as the previous movement, slowly allow your hips to sink backwards towards your feet.
Allow your head to relax downwards and keep your arms out in front.
Slowly move back to the start position and repeat.
Kneeling lunge – hips
Place one leg back behind you and bring the other one to the front, in a similar position to a runner in the blocks. You may need to use a chair or something similar to aid balance when you first try this one.
Slowly bring your trunk upright and allow your hip to sink forwards, feeling a stretch at the front of your thigh and hip.
Once you have mastered balance, bring the arm of the side you are stretching upwards, and reach up and across your body to increase the stretch.
Total body PNF – total body
Allow your body to hang down, keeping your arms and shoulders totally relaxed.
Breathing deeply, slowly stand upright. Open out your arms, turning your thumbs upwards and backwards.
Feel your chest expand and a deep stretch through your ribs and trunk.
Repeat as many times as needed to achieve a feeling of deep relaxation.