How to Wind Down After A Workout

Cooling down after exercise is just as necessary and beneficial for the mind as it is for the body.
Published October 1, 2018

So you've just finished a late evening run, or maybe wrapped up your fitness class, or perhaps just worked up a sweat dancing with your children. Your heart is pumping, your brow is sweaty and you feel great. So of course the next thing you want to do is...start getting ready to go to bed? Hardly! So how can you get your body back into a restful state after exercising?

Winding down after a great workout is an important part of adopting a regular exercise routine. By coaching your body to return to a calm, natural state you'll be able to relax sooner and not interrupt your typical sleep or evening patterns. Here are a few tried and true ways you can wind down before bedtime.

Take a nice, deep breath
Breathing unconsciously from the chest instead of the diaphragm requires a lot more effort and can result in anxiety, asthma and other pulmonary issues. Seize the opportunity to breathe properly when trying to relax post-workout.

Lying down, sitting or standing up straight, loosely cross your hands over your stomach and take a nice, deep belly breath.  You should feel your stomach rise and fall and fingers pull apart from each other. As you inhale deeply through your nose, hold the breath for two or three seconds then exhale fully from your mouth.  You’ll quickly begin to relax as your heart rate returns to normal. 

Stretch it out
Not many stretches beat the traditional static kind when it comes to cooling down. Choose a position that challenges the recently worked muscles, and simply hold it for 10 to 15 seconds.  A basic stretch like the toe touch works great at elongating tightly wound hamstrings at the back of the knees. The longer, the slower, the more relaxed, the better. You’re trying to unwind, after all, not break any limbs by turning into a pretzel, so go easy and melt into the stretch, taking controlled breaths as you go. 

Opt for a massage
Who doesn’t appreciate a great massage?  One needn’t be a professional masseuse to benefit from muscular therapy. Legs that pounded the pavement, danced the Macarena or squatted in the garden could use some extra love and care by pressing your fingers into your quadriceps while moving around to the back of the hamstrings and calves.  A tennis ball is a great massage prop as you lie down with your weight pressed into it and ever so slowly, roll over the muscle you’d like to unknot.  For the ultimate post-workout relaxation experience, try the tense and release method by tightening individual muscles for 10-seconds at a time, then letting go.

Delight your senses
Whether it’s essential lavender oil in a warm bath, drinking a soothing cup of chamomile tea or rubbing sandalwood essence on your pillow, aromatherapy can have a powerful, relaxing effect. In the same way, one associates coffee with a morning wake up call, assigning a calming scent to your post-workout relaxation routine, can instantly affect you with just one sniff. Your brain will pick up on the scent and send directions to your body to wind down; just make sure it’s out of olfactory reach, pre-workout!

Jumping straight from activity to your regular routine without actively pursuing a calmer state, may keep your body and mind wired for hours. Hopefully these tips will help bring you down from the highs of exercise. The rewards of practicing a simple post-workout routine include better health, a happier mood and a more peaceful sleep. May the zzz’s be with you!