The cooldown can be seen as a way to accelerate the termination of the stress response. That means getting our stress response to flip from one of breaking down (catabolic) to one of building up (anabolic).
Try these three ways to spice up the cooldown for maximising training:
THE SOCIAL COOLDOWN
Research has shown that social environment can have a large effect on the release of hormones like testosterone. In a study published in Physiology & Behavior, researchers found that changes in testosterone after a soccer match were related to how connected the players felt socially to their teammates. Similarly, testing done on Olympic athletes has shown that the level of testosterone postgame changed based on whether the players were engaging socially with their teammates or spending that time isolated, playing around on their mobile phones.
We can take advantage of this effect on the cooldown by interacting with others. Even if you work out alone, find a buddy you can call afterward to join you.
THE RELAXED COOLDOWN
We can work at getting our body back to a relaxed state with the influence of external stimuli. Research has shown that simple things like music can reduce postexercise cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of the body’s primary stress hormones, which works to get us prepared for the exertion we are undertaking.
After you finish your workout, cool down to some music that is relaxed and soothing. If you listen to music while you work out, switch from up-tempo to something more mellow.
THE LONG COOLDOWN
We get caught up in a set pattern of one- to three-kilometre cooldowns. It becomes ingrained. We’re missing out on the physiological and psychological advantages of a longer cooldown. An extended effort allows us to get in some easy aerobic work in a prefatigued state, creating a nice boost to our general aerobic abilities. It also helps accelerate the return to baseline. A relaxed and extended run tends to change stress levels to a more desirable level, almost like a recovery run would.
Instead of the traditional 3K cool down, try to get in six or more kilometres at an easy pace. It will allow you to reap some training benefits while unwinding from the workout.