Question: What would a proper cool-down
entail and why is it important to do a 'cool-down'?
very often neglected component of racing and training is recovery. Many times after finishing a race we spend 30
minutes to an hour hanging out at the finish line with family and friends
sharing stories from the just completed suffer fest. Or we finish a hard training session at home,
jump in the shower and then rush to consume large quantities of food. What we’re forgetting is the recovery part of
a race or training session. A good
recovery can have a dramatic impact on your ability to train or race again the
next day, or how much energy you have later in the evening, or even how sore
your muscles get post workout.
we exercise the muscles in our body become sore. Why do our muscles get sore? Exercise causes a couple different things to
occur on the cellular level. First is
the wear and tear on the muscle fiber. Using a muscle will create very minute micro-tears in the muscle fiber
membranes. In response, our bodies
increase the blood flow to the muscles which brings proteins and nutrients
needed to repair the damaged cells. However this increase in fluid puts pressure on the nerve endings which
in turn causes the pain we feel post exercise.
second reason our muscles get sore is the damage caused by the release of
free-radicals. When free-radicals are
released during exercise they attack the walls of the muscle cells damaging the
membranes, increase protein breakdown, and damage the mitochondria. This also contributes to muscle inflammation
third reason our muscles get sore is the effects of cortisol. Cortisol is released during exercise to help
our body utilize various sources of energy. This process, however, causes damage to muscle tissues, increases
protein breakdown in the muscle cells, and blocks the entry of amino acids into
the cells for protein synthesis. Again,
more damage to the muscle cells causes more inflammation which increases the
pain and soreness we feel post exercise.
what does this mean for recovery? A good
recovery or cool-down can speed up the amount of time it takes to return to
your normal pre-race or pre-workout state. The faster you recover, the sooner you’ll be able to do hard training
again. The faster you recover, the
better you will be for the next day of racing in a multi-day stage race. But how? By doing a light high-cadence spin after a race you are increasing circulation
which is bringing needed nutrients and energy to your depleted and damaged
muscle cells. Increased circulation will
also speed up the removal of the lactic acid in your blood stream by moving it
to the liver where it is reconverted back to glucose. And finally a light spin can also reduce the
inflammation and swelling of the muscle tissues which in turn reduces
a "recovery drink” within 30 minutes of exercise will also speed up
recovery. Immediately following
exercise the muscle cells in our bodies are extremely sensitive to insulin. Insulin regulates the transport of glucose
from our blood into our muscle cells. When there are sufficient carbohydrates in our stomach, glycogen
replenishment will happen at a faster rate during this time immediately
following a workout. However, this
insulin sensitivity goes away after 30 minutes. So consuming a recovery drink as soon as your race is over will have a
bigger impact than eating a large pasta dinner two hours later.
what does all this mean in practical terms?
you cross the finish line go immediately to your car and grab your recovery
drink or some kind of food that is full of carbs and protein. Eat!
out of your wet sweaty race clothes into dry riding clothes.
back on your bike and ride around for 20-30 minutes in a nice easy gear with a
low heart rate and a high cadence (95-105rpms).
you can visit with family and friends and hang out enjoying more good food and
the post-race celebration.
good cool-down and proper recovery is easy to do, feels good on the legs, and
can make you stronger and faster for tomorrow’s race or your next day of
Alison Dunlap is a certified Level II USAC Coach and has been
working with athletes for thirteen years. She coaches both road and
mountain bikers and runs skills clinics and camps throughout the summer with
her company the Alison Dunlap Adventure Camps. Alison is also a two-time
Olympian, MTB World Champion, and 13-time National Champion. Please visit www.alisondunlap.com for more information.