Confession: I do. Almost always. Even with the yoga poses, I rarely make it through even 3 minutes of corpse pose. I start thinking of all the things I need to do and, bam, I’m up and running. But I’ve often wondered if skipping the cool down might be bad for me. According to some recent studies... uh… no. And yes. It depends on why you’re cooling down. Cooling down is valuable in that it prevents blood pooling in the extremities, which can cause dizziness or fainting. But a cool down does nothing to prevent muscle soreness. From the article in The New York Times:
“In a representative study published last year in The Journal of Human Kinetics, a group of 36 active adults undertook a strenuous, one-time program of forward lunges while holding barbells, an exercise almost guaranteed to make untrained people extremely sore the next day. Some of the volunteers warmed up beforehand by pedaling a stationary bicycle at a very gentle pace for 20 minutes. Others didn’t warm up but cooled down after the exercise with the same 20 minutes of easy cycling. The rest just lunged, neither warming up nor cooling down.
The next day, all of the volunteers submitted to a pain threshold test, in which their muscles were prodded until they reported discomfort. The volunteers who’d warmed up before exercising had the highest pain threshold, meaning their muscles were relatively pain-free.
Those who’d cooled down, on the other hand, had a much lower pain threshold; their muscles hurt. The cool-down group’s pain threshold was, in fact, the same as among the control group. Cooling down had bought the exercisers nothing in terms of pain relief.
In other words, warming up is important for preventing and/or lessening muscle soreness post workout. Cooling down? Possibly not so much.