As important as it is to warm-up before your dragonboat training session or race, cooling down is also a very crucial part in recovery and minimising future injury.
Why cool down?
The practice of cooling down after exercise means slowing down your level of activity gradually and these are the reasons for cooling down:
* helps your heart rate and breathing to return towards normal gradually;
* helps avoid fainting or dizziness, which can result from blood pooling in the large muscles of the legs when vigorous activity is stopped suddenly;
* helps prepare your muscles for the next exercise session, whether it’s the next day or in a few days’ time; and
* helps to remove waste products from your muscles, such as lactic acid, which can build up during vigorous activity.
You may see conflicting advice as to whether cooling down prevents post-exercise muscle soreness, also known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). However, even if cooling down doesn’t prevent DOMS, the other benefits of cooling down outweigh that.
Ensuring an effective cool-down
* perform low intensity movements for a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes; and
* follow this with a stretching routine.
1. Gradually slowing down the pace and exertion of your dragonboat session over several minutes can seem a natural progression. Usually your team will paddle a lap around at a very low intensity just before you get off the boat and this will help you slow down your heart rate.
2. Slow jogging or brisk walking. Another option is to jog or walk briskly for a few minutes with your team, making sure that this activity is lower in intensity than the paddling you have just performed in the boat.
Stretching after your cool-down
The best time to stretch is after your cool-down, as at this time your muscles are still warm and most likely to respond favourably and there is a low risk of injury. Stretching helps to relax your muscles and restore them to their resting length, and improve flexibility (the range of movement about your joints).
As a guide, allow 10 minutes of stretching for every one hour of paddling. Include the warm-up stretches mentioned in the previous post and make these stretches more thorough. Stretch each muscle group for 20 to 30 seconds, 2 to 3 times. Additionally I would recommend putting on something warm straight after you have dried yourself and finished stretched e.g. a sports jacket and long pants.
I can not emphasize more on how important the cool down period is as it will help you recover faster and also minimise injury. Therefore allowing you to enjoy your dragonboat training sessions and races pain free!