It's hard enough to fit a full workout into your busy schedule, so if you're in a hurry, you might forget (or simply skip over) the cooldown after your sweat session is all said and done. After all, you're just trying to save yourself some time. But failing to give your body some TLC after a tough workout has some unfortunate consequences, and while you think you're being time-efficient, you might just be hurting yourself in the long run.
Your muscles are pretty tough, but that doesn't mean they don't need proper care after they've performed at their highest level. Liz Letchford, MS, ATC, a trainer and injury-prevention specialist, told POPSUGAR, "Going straight from exercise to sitting still is hard on the body. The abrupt shift from using muscles to shortening them or sitting on them can cause muscle imbalances and spasms to occur."
Skip out on that cooldown, and not only will you likely face cramps in the future, but your muscles won't repair and grow properly. And that might mean you won't even reap the rewards of all your hard work.
Lauren Clare, a personal trainer and certified holistic health coach, confirms this to be true. "When you don't properly cool down after an intense workout, your body may stiffen up, which causes your post-workout recovery process to slow down," she told POPSUGAR. "A buildup of lactic acid in the muscles may leave you feeling tight and sore for the next few days."
Additionally, you don't want to waste the warmth you've generated in your body during a solid workout. This is the perfect time to stretch and gain some mobility. "Tissue length changes are more likely to happen when body temperature is increased," Letchford told POPSUGAR. A cooldown also gives your body the chance to "utilize or 'flush' any lactate remaining in the blood," Letchford said.
"We should all cool down for five to 10 minutes after a workout to help improve muscle flexibility and range of motion and to decrease your risk of injury," Clare said in conclusion. Even if it's just a few stretches or some moves on the foam roller, you'll maximize the benefits of your workout.