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Exercise and cool-down strategies

by jerry Vance

How many of you take the time to cool down following your hour of sweat? If I had to take a guess, I’d guess that at least 50 percent of you start cold and finish hot. To the professionals in the fitness game, that is a good way to court an injury.

Lack of time is the biggest reason for the omission of cool-downs following exercise. Having to quickly return to work, pick up the kids, or stop at the grocery store cuts into muscle-relaxing time needed to expel lactic-acid buildup from a hard workout.

Your heart is also a muscle and needs that same amount of recovery time. Taking your overheated body and overstimulated heart out into the cold air without slowing down your metabolism can stiffen muscles and leave your heart rate elevated.

Besides the advantages of cool-down stretches, think what five minutes of relaxing can do for your stress level. Five minutes without planning meals or listening to kids whine in the back seat can give you what it takes to get through the evening.

Try this sequence: Sit on the floor and circle your neck gently. Then stretch out your legs and reach for your toes. Bend one leg in, lift your body up, arch your back, sit down, and reach again for that toe. This relaxes your lower back, shoulders and hamstrings.

Bend one leg behind you and pull it up to your bottom. Reverse, and lift the same leg in front of you. You get both a quadriceps and a hamstring stretch this way. Bend a knee over the other leg and turn with an opposite twist to face the other way. Pull that same leg up across your chest for a hip stretch.

Pull both feet up toward you with the soles together pull your toes gently toward you and circle your neck one more time. This takes about three minutes or the length of one short, slow song.

Anyone who won’t take the time to adjust the body mechanism to a slower, more relaxing level is leaving out the reward at the end of her hour of sweat. Joggers, basketball players, soccer athletes, even classroom fitness students who do aerobic exercise for 20-30 minutes need the quiet cool- down time at the end of the workout.

There are some days when all a body really needs is a solid hour of cool- down moves. Doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me.

• Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the senior center.