Once the training or match is over your heart rate needs to return to its regular state and muscles need to relax. This process is just as important as warming up because it will minimise muscle stiffness and tiredness the next day – which reduces the chances of injury.
Warming down after periods of intense exercise helps to cool the body down, slow the heart rate and normalise blood pressure gradually.
Gentle exercise like jogging or walking will bring body temperature down and decrease the heart rate, while stretching will steadily relax the muscles. You should look to do this for at least 10-15 minutes right after you have finished your activity.
Practical Warm Down Exercises:
- Skipping – skip whilst moving forward and swinging your arms forward for about 20 metres, and then skip back to your starting position with your arms swinging backwards.
- High Knee Jogging – whilst jogging, stop on the spot for about 10 seconds and begin to perform knees up, so that your thigh reaches a 90-degree angle with your body.
- Torso twists – Whilst jogging, stop on the spot and perform 15 seconds worth of rapid torso twists from side to side. Make sure you maintain a steady rhythm and keep your arms completely loose.
- Hamstring stretches – Start with your feet a shoulder’s width apart. Interlace your fingers behind your back, and slowly bend forwards whilst keeping your legs straight. Try to tuck your chin in as near to your knees as you can, and bring your hands above your back. Hold this for two or three seconds, and then slowly return to your starting position.
- Calf stretches – Find a wall or a teammate to lean on, and then stand at arm’s distance. Lunge forward with your left leg, so it is slightly bent, and stretch your right leg behind you (keeping it straight). Your right heel should be pressed into the ground. Hold this stance for around 20 seconds, and then switch legs. Repeat this five times to give your calves a great warm-down.
- Quad stretches – Start with your feet three or four inches apart, and bring your left leg behind you – taking hold of it with your left hand. Keeping your back straight, gently pull your foot into your gluteal muscles. Slowly return your left foot to the ground, and repeat the exercise with your right foot.
- Lower back stretches – Lie on your back with the soles of your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Very slowly lower both knees to the right while keeping the rest of your body perfectly still. With your right hand, gently pull your things towards the ground, and stretch your left arm out behind you. You should feel a stretch through your side and lower back. Then simply swap sides and repeat the exercise from scratch.