Cool Down After That Volleyball Game
The game is over. The last ball has fallen and the outcome has been decided. After a quick team meeting, you’re out the door and back to your life. You’re done, right? Wrong.
One of the most often ignored phases of exercise or playing any sport is the cooldown. After every practice, every game, every workout, and every conditioning session, you should cool down your body.
Why Cool Down?
Just as a warm up slowly gets your muscles warm and your heart pumping and your body ready to play, a proper cool down slows the heart rate, cools your muscles, and helps your body to start the recovery process for the next day’s practice or match.
The main reasons to incorporate a cooldown in your training regimen are that it:
- Helps the heart rate, breathing, and body temperature gradually return to normal
- Removes waste products like lactic acid from the blood
- Reduces injury and soreness
- Accelerates recovery and helps prepare your muscles for the next challenge
What If You Don’t Cool Down?
When you work out, your heart pumps blood rapidly to the muscles, the muscles use the oxygen and nutrients in the blood and the blood (along with waste products like lactic acid) is sent back to the heart for re-oxygenation. When you stop exercising abruptly, this process slows too quickly. As a result, the blood and waste products can stay in your large muscle groups. It called blood pooling and it can lead to soreness and a slow recovery.
Adrenaline and endorphins are also present in the blood at high levels after a workout. A nice, easy cool down helps to reduce the levels so that they don’t cause restlessness after a practice, match, or tournament. Too much adrenaline in the blood can cause sleepless nights.
To make sure that your body recovers well for the next day’s practice or tournament, incorporate a cooldown every time. A proper cool down includes three steps: gentle exercise, stretching, and refueling.
After you finish a practice or a match, do not stop moving abruptly, as that will adversely affect your body and your muscles. Instead, make sure to keep moving for a few minutes after the end of play. Add some easy exercise that is much less intense than what you did during the match.
This could be a few easy laps around the gym, which is the most common start to a cool down in volleyball. You can also add some easy ball tosses between partners or some other easy exercise. Whatever you choose, it should facilitate bringing the heart rate down, not raising it, and it should engage the muscles that you were using to play, but not strain them.
Stretching before participating in exercise is always emphasized. It makes sense because cold muscles need to warm up before you can play. But it is important to stretch after exercise also. When the muscles are warm, you can stretch more easily, helping with your flexibility without the threat of injury that’s present when stretching cold muscles.
Stretching will help to lengthen those muscles one last time and will help to rid them of those waste products we talked about earlier. Add some deep breathing exercises while you stretch to help oxygenate the muscles so you can avoid stiffness or soreness.
Make sure to stretch all the muscles you’ve used during play, which in volleyball is just about every muscle in the body. Be sure to spend a good several minutes on the quads, hamstrings, calf, shoulder and stomach muscles. Ideally, you should stretch each muscle for 20-30 seconds two or three times each.
Ten minutes of stretching after you play will help you to recover more quickly and to avoid injury.
The cooldown process is not complete until you refuel. Your body lost water and nutrients as you played, so it is now time to replace them.
Make sure to drink lots of water or sports drink after your work out and eat something within that first hour after you finish, because that is when the body is best at delivering the nutrients that your muscles really need.