There are plenty of swimmers who overlook the benefits of the warm down after swimming. This is perhaps understandable. If you have just spent a good few hours hurting your muscles in the pool, the last thing you probably want to do is hop back in.
If you were in a race and it didn't go your way, you're probably not that eager to jump back into the water either. Still, you shouldn't pass up the opportunity to complete your warm down, and there are several reasons why this is so important.
Reset Your Mind
The first benefit of a swimming warm down is that it actually helps you reset and refocus. You probably thought that a warm down was only beneficial to your body, but this isn’t the case. Hopping back into the water and completing a few gentle strokes will allow you to reevaluate your performance with a clear mind and consider what went wrong.
Swimming can be incredibly relaxing, and it’s a great way to wind down after a long workout or indeed, a difficult race. Some people, however, may not want to get back in the pool after a very tough race or session. That's fine, lots of pools have other gym facilities that you could possibly use.
Return to a State of Rest
As well as this, the right swimming warm down will allow your body to return to a state of rest. This will ensure the recovery of your neuromuscular system and the flushing of lactate. Essentially, you need to keep your body healthy if you want to continue to perform at your best levels.
Help Your Body Heal
It's fair to say that racing or even training in the pool can be intense. You can work your muscles to the point where you start to feel pain, particularly if you are constantly working to improve your performance.
You might not be aware that a warm down can help your body heal after this type of heavy workout. As well muscle repair, it will also help your brain. Warming down has been shown to be relaxing and benefit your mood. As such, you’ll feel far better about yourself after a race.
An excellent companion for recovery is compression clothing. Compression tights and compression tops have been developed to assist your body in recovery, as well as prevent injury during a workout. The recovery stage works by promoting a good blood flow thus allowing your heart to remove lactic acid that builds up in your muscles and causes muscles to ache.
Let Your Nervous System Recover
Another major benefit that you need to consider is the impact that warming down has on your nervous system. After a race or a heavy workout in the pool, your nervous system also needs to recover.
According to a study, those who warm down for twenty minutes are far more likely to improve their performance the next time they race compared to those who do not engage in a recovery session.
As such, by warming down, you can actually avoid the issue of neuron fatigue completely which constantly plagues all athletes including swimmers.
Does a Swimming Warm Down Need to be in Water?
Finally, you might avoid the swimming cool down because there is typically not a warm down pool available after a race. But you shouldn’t let this stop you from giving your body and indeed your mind the warm down it deserves.
There are plenty of alternative options to consider. For instance, you can just complete arm and leg swings in the shower. Or, you could think about spending a bit of time on an exercise bike.
5 Swimming Cool Down and Recovery Tips
1) Slow your laps down
This is the easiest way to warm down gradually in the pool after an intense workout. Simply slow your pace down, and spend about 5-10 minutes swimming at a very leisurely pace. You could also switch between strokes every few laps to help your body cool down thoroughly but gently.
Stretching is an important way to help the body return to its restful state, and it can be done in or out of the pool. Focus on stretching all parts of the body that you've put under stress during your workout.
After swimming, pay particular attention to the arms, shoulders and neck, and your leg, calf and foot muscles. Swimmers often neglect stretching their back after leaving the pool, but this is another important part to remember.
3) Hydration and nutrition
A proper diet after swimming is essential to help your body recover as quickly as possible. It's important that any foods contain a decent balance of protein (to help repair muscles) and carbohydrates (to help restore glycogen).
Natural low-fat yoghurt or fresh fruit are great as snacks. If you're looking to have a main meal, chicken, fish, turkey, beef, eggs and low-fat cheese can be a good source of protein while wholegrain rice or pasta will restock those carbohydrates.
Also, avoid alcohol. If you drink alcohol, you will introduce additional toxins into your body, which will deal with them as a priority. This means attention is diverted from repairing and healing your muscles.
There is also a full range of sports nutrition products that can help you start refuelling your body instantly after swimming. You can get instant boosts through protein bars or energy gels, and rehydrate by using specialist electrolyte sports drinks.
Sports massage therapists will quickly get to the bottom of your aches and pains, and will know the best ways to relieve stress and pain in your muscles.
Understandably, it's not always possible to have a proper sports massage after workouts, both logistically and from a cost perspective. However there is a wide range of excellent massage aids which can do a great job in helping ease muscle pain.
One of our favourites is the versatile foam roller. We recently wrote a blog specifically on foam roller exercises and how you can treat almost every part of the body with one. Click on the button to check it out.
There are plenty of other recovery aids available at very reasonable prices, such as trigger point massage balls, massage sticks and resistance bands.They are far more cost-effective solutions than visiting a sports physio all the time.
It's easily overlooked, but sleep plays a vital role in the body's recovery after strenuous exercise. A proper night's sleep can have a huge impact on the body's ability to heal and grow muscles.
Not only will a good sleep help you recover overnight following exercise, it will also stand you in better shape for performing again the next day. If you're sleep deprived, your performances will undoubtedly suffer.