After a hard workout the first thing I want to do is take a shower. I'm all sweaty and tired and really just don't want to do anymore physical activity. But then I remember that I need to do a cooldown, and there are several reasons why a cooldown is as essential as a warmup. There are three basic elements involved in a cooldown:
Lowering the heart rate and blood flow
If you suddenly stop your workout, there could be a dramatic dip in blood pressure, which is very dangerous for everyone, but especially for older men and women. A dip in blood pressure can cause you to faint and potentially bump your head or another part of your body causing serious injury. One way to prevent a dip in blood pressure is to do a slow jog for a couple of minutes, then take it down to a brisk walk, then to a slow walk, and finally finish with some stretches.
Stopping abruptly also causes the blood flowing to remain in the muscles. During your workout, your heart is constantly sending blood to your muscles, which is then sent back to the heart. If you stop a workout abruptly, the blood will continue to be sent to your muscles, but since your muscles aren't doing anything, they don't send the blood back to the heart. By cooling down at the end of a workout, you give your muscles the chance to send the blood back to the heart since they are continually moving. During a cooldown, your heart will slowly stop sending extra blood to the muscles as well.
Stretching gives you another chance to stretch the muscles that were worked out the most. When your body starts to cooldown on it's own, the muscles shorten and eventually are shorter than before you started the workout. Doing a cooldown prevents this shortening and reduces soreness as well as long term or permanent shortening of the muscles. Otherwise you are prone to cramping. Make sure you hold each stretch for at least 8 seconds to give your muscles enough time to loosen up. If you feel sore in one area more than others, hold that stretch a little bit longer, but not too long. Over stretching can cause you to pull a muscle. Stretching will also reduce soreness in the days after your workout.
Re-Fuel or recovery drink
Once you are finished stretching, you will probably still feel drained. That is because your body and muscles need some extra fuel to repair and use for energy. It is important to re-fuel your system within 60 minutes of your workout. Drinking a carbohydrate-protein shake is ideal during this time. It will help replace the glycogen that your body used up during your workout which will promote muscle recuperation. Consuming between 50-100 grams of carbs and 30-50 grams of protein after a workout is ideal. If you wait too long after your workout, it's wasted and you aren't doing your body any good.
I just finished up a one-month supply of P90X Results and Recovery Formula® 30-Day Supply (25 Servings) - Tub and am now going to try out Endurox R4 Fruit Punch 4.63 lbs. The P90X Recovery Drink was great! It tasted good and made me feel energized after a hard workout. I also didn't feel as sore after hard workouts when I drank the recovery drink. The only thing I disliked was that it is so expensive for a 30-day supply. My boyfriend has a GNC gold card and when I was there last, I saw the Endurox and decided to give that a try since it is significantly cheaper (hooray gold card discount!) and does basically the same thing. It was also recommended by the GNC employee (but I think that was because he makes commission off of it). I haven't tried it yet, tonight will be my first day of drinking the Endurox as my recovery drink. Hopefully it tastes like fruit punch and not like ass :)