It’s a normal Tuesday morning.
You have to drop the kids off at school, go food shopping, stop by to visit your parents, pick up the kids from school, bring them to practice, run home to start dinner, pick the kids up from practice, finish making dinner, feed your family, make sure homework gets done, put the kids to bed, clean up from dinner, and finally pour a glass of wine and put your feet up…. oh and you need to find an hour for yourself to work out at some point too.
Can you relate to this always-on-the-go schedule?
If you answered yes, you are more than likely to be among the majority of people in the United States who live a hectic and ultra-busy lifestyle.
This lifestyle, which is resulting in an obesity rate that is growing out of control, and killing more people than cancer (which, by the way, we don’t have a cure for) is one that many American’s subscribe too.
When you do actually find the time to exercise, you usually fit it in while in the middle of running around doing other tasks.
You can barely fit in the workout itself before running out the door to your next responsibility… so how are you supposed to find time to prioritize your cool down after your workout?
Your Nervous System Has The Answer
From controlling your muscles to regulating hormones, your nervous system plays an enormous role in every action that your body takes.
When you work out, you are putting your body under stress. Which, by putting your body into controlled stress like an exercise in general, it is a good thing.
However, when you are constantly in a perpetual state of stress from your lifestyle, increasing that stress without having a mechanism to lowering it can lead to disastrous results.
When you workout, you propel your body into a sympathetic state which is controlled by your nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is what’s responsible for having you go into “fight or flight” mode.
This is a good thing when running away from a predator, but fortunately, we don’t encounter that too much in our modern lives.
Unfortunately, this sympathetic state is also brought on by most stressful situations in our life.
It is a natural response of our body for this to happen during exercise, however, it is not natural for us to stay in this state for too long- which is what happens when we don’t cool down after we work out.
Couple this with rushing out of the gym to immediately get something else on your list done and your level of stress has actually increased keeping you in that sympathetic state for longer.
When in a sympathetic state for too long, your body starts producing cortisol. Cortisol is released because of stress, but it also causes your body to store fat.
Enter the Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system is in charge of lowering your heart rate and helps combat the effects of being in a sympathetic state.
After exercise, your body needs to go into recovery mode in order for you to see results from your workout.
Not only do your muscles need to start the recovery process, but so does your nervous system.
The longer your body takes to get back into a parasympathetic state, the harder it will be to start the recovery process, hence stalling your results.
So, if you’re someone who does fit in a couple of workouts a week, but is struggling to see results, maybe you need to take a closer look at what you are doing after your workout is complete.
If you are finishing your last exercise and running out the door to go to what’s next on your schedule, you may not be giving yourself the proper cool down to allow your body to get back into the parasympathetic state that it wants to be in.
In fact, you could be making it worse by rushing into another “stressful” situation.
A Quick 5 Minute Cool Down
An easy way that anyone can implement a proper cool down into their workout is by practicing diaphragmic breathing which has been proven to help get you out of a sympathetic state, and aid in getting into a parasympathetic state faster post-exercise.
This is done by concentrating on proper breathing technique of using your diaphragm to breathe, as opposed to your chest muscles.
Here’s what to do:
Lay on your back with your feet elevated above your heart to help increase blood flow from your limbs back to your heart.
Place one hand on your stomach, and the other hand on your chest.
Breath in deep breaths filling your stomach, and feeling that hand rise with it.
The hand that is on your chest should have minimal movement while inhaling and exhaling.
Practice inhaling and exhaling big slow breaths, filling your stomach each time, for about 5 minutes.
It’s that simple!
Adding 5 minutes of a cool down such as this at the end of each workout will pay dividends in your results.
You will help your body get back into a fat-burning state by lowering your heart rate and controlling cortisol levels, while also speeding up the recovery of your muscles.
It only takes 5 minutes at the end of each workout to enhance your results.
Make it a priority the next time you are at the gym!