It is all too common I watch/hear talk about the horses cool down but what about yours? And by this I am referring to training both on and off the horse.
Truth is training is only half of the equation and your training isn’t even the most important half.
The cool down is the single most important factor in maximising your recovery, and therefore your results in just a matter of a few minutes a day!
Aim of the Cool Down
Just like with our equine friends, the aim of the cool down should be to return your heart rate to the same/lower than your heart rate when you started your workout/ride. This then stimulates activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) stimulating the body to repair and essential rebuild, recover and bring about desired results from your workout/ride. As riding is as much about exercise for the horse as it is developing your riding and fitness.
The cool down is crucial as it is your first step into recovery. The quicker you get your body into recovery mode, the greater time your body will have to adapt and respond.
It is this adaptation that when utilised correctly not only gets you fitter/leaner/stronger, but enables you to better handle stress in your day-to-day life too.
The body deals and sees stress, whether it be physical or mental, in the same way. By utilising an effective cool down post workout will give you the tools to effectively alter your body’s respond to stress in your personal life, learning how to switch off the stress response and active your body’s recovery mode.
But I Barely Have Enough Time to Fit in My Ride/Workout..
During any exercise that we elevate our heart rate, we activate the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) creating a ‘stressful’ environment in which our body actually breaks down muscle tissue. Placing the right amount of stress on our body can allow us to get fitter/stronger but only when we are maximising our recovery.
Training without cooling down is like walking into Ariat picking out the most perfect new boots, buying them and then saying to the shop assistant to just chuck them in the bin – mental hey, but this is essentially what you are doing when you neglect the cooldown.
You can have the ‘perfect’ training program/ride but if you aren’t able to turn on recovery mode you aren’t allowing the body to rebuild itself to be stronger, faster, leaner, fitter and you are chucking away your chances of seeing any results.
Progress isn’t made in training it is made when you switch on recovery mode.
Cool Down Routine
Essentially there are 3 components to an effectively cool down:
- Active Recovery (2-3mins)
Light cardio designed to bring your Heart Rate down slowly (to around 100bpm or less) – when riding this can be done in line with the horses cooldown, dismounting and walking for 2/3mins.
- Recovery Breathing (2-3mins)
Deep breathing, focusing more on the exhale to increase activation of parasympathetic nervous system. This will become easier the more you do it and a good exercise to learn to keep your cool during stressful situations – can be done whilst walking off and upon returning to the stable take a minute to do 10 deep breaths stationary.
- Mobility/soft tissue work (2-3mins)
Light release work foam roller/acu-mobility ball – focus here on light pressure not painful (pain increases work of sympathetic nervous system). This can be done on your return home/before bed focusing on areas of particular tightness for you but remembering keep the pressure light it should be relaxing!
Avoiding caffeine/stimulants for at least a couple of hours after and especially with post workout food to allow parasympathetic nervous system to do its job to maximise initial stages of recovery.
Also worth noting if you are coming back from injury/currently injured, utilising this ‘cooldown’ into your morning/evening routine will be hugely beneficial to a speedy recovery by ensuring you are spending maximum time in recovery mode.
Super quick and easy but so effective in bringing you the results you work so hard for!
Any questions please do drop me a message and I hope you all have a really fab weekend J