Let's admit it: we're all guilty of sometimes skipping our cool down. Making it to the gym and getting through your session can often feel like hard work, so it's tempting to neglect the post-exercise stretch and head straight for the couch.
I always regret not doing a cool down after I exercise. While the jury's still out on whether or not it can reduce DOMs (delayed-onset muscle soreness), I find that it helps with the tight, stiff feeling I have after lifting weights.
A good cool down will also help your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal levels, which can help you avoid feeling faint and dizzy. Plus, if you stretch after each workout you do, you'll soon notice some flexibility improvements.
I have some basic stretching exercises that I use after working out, but I often feel like I should be doing a wider range of movements. So when I discovered this leg day mobility routine from personal trainer Ella-Mae Rayner, which mobilizes the entirety of the lower-body, I decided to give it a go.
Watch Ella-Mae Rayner's leg-day mobility routine
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There are six stretches in this routine and Rayner recommends holding each of them for 45 seconds, making sure to do the unilateral stretches on both sides of the body.
The movements in this routine are all passive stretches, which means you hold the stretch rather than moving in and out of it. This style of stretching is ideal for cooling down, as it boosts flexibility without taxing your muscles, which are probably already tired.
I tend to do dynamic, moving stretches when warming up for workouts, to get my muscles warm and limber. However, I really enjoyed this passive style of stretching, which allowed me to move deeper into each of the movements as I got more comfortable with them. Taking the time to stretch also helped me feel more relaxed after the workout, so I felt calm and happy when I left the gym.
I've had tight hips and sore calves for the past couple of days, thanks to a week of heavy lifting. After stretching, my muscles felt more relaxed—I also felt like my DOMS was less severe the following day.
This is definitely a routine I'll come back to for leg-day cool downs. The movements were simple but effective in targeting muscles such as the hamstrings, quads and the calves. I also suspect they will improve my lower body flexibility and mobility, which is an added bonus.
Looking for more ways to limber up after working out? Have a look at our guide to the best foam rollers
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Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.
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