I've used every excuse in the book to skip a cooldown after a workout class.
A few examples:
1. If I don't get out of this studio first, I'll have to wait in line forever for the shower!
2. I'll have more time to make and eat a healthy breakfast before leaving for work.
3. I won't get anything out of a three-minute stretch, so I might as well leave.
I've been skipping cooldowns for as long as I can remember (even as a teenager at swim practice), and my impatience and insecurity about my inflexibility are both to blame. Ironically, nothing good ever came from rushing out and skipping that post-sweat stretch, either. I left at the same time for work, my breakfast was never exactly balanced, and I usually ended the day with stiff and sore muscles.
But, since I've started working out at home, I'm trying to break my bad habit.
My motivation was my joint stiffness and the realization that I was halting my fitness goals by not stretching out my body, as well as the fact that I was setting myself up for injury, too. Switching over to mostly low-impact workouts is what first helped me ease into the cooldown rhythm.
For example, in yoga, Savasana (or Corpe's pose) is what typically ends a sequence — and in my opinion, it's the best possible cooldown. After putting in work, you're able to unwind and recoup while slowly relaxing your body and deeply breathing on the mat.
Using a fitness app that prioritizes cooldowns, like Openfit, also helped me start meeting my cooldown goal. In many of the 40-minute classes on the app, a full five or six minutes is reserved to cooling down the body with thoughtful and thorough stretches.
The dedication paid off quickly. After cooling down after my workouts for only a few weeks, my joints are less achy by the end of the day, my hamstrings are noticeably less tight, which is helping me perform more challenging poses and moves, and my flexibility is starting to improve.
On top of the physical pros, I feel happier and less stressed at the end of my workouts, which in turn helps me make healthier choices for breakfast and complete tasks in a calm and collected manner.
And yes, I can confidently say being first in the shower line does not come close to the benefits of a completed cooldown.