4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Skip the Cool-down

Why you need to ease out of an intense cycling workout . . .

In nearly every indoor cycling class, there’s at least one person who heads out early, opting out of the cool-down and stretching segments of the class. I understand that people are busy and under time constraints but, as I regularly tell my classes, the cool-down is an important aspect of the class because it allows your heart rate to come down slowly and your circulation to adjust to the conclusion of your workout; plus, stretching can help you feel better later.

With some people, I feel like I might as well be whistling in the wind when I say this because they’re not heeding the message. Here are four reasons it’s a mistake to skip the cool-down:

Quitting abruptly, without cooling down, can lead to blood pooling. During an intense bout of indoor cycling, your heart is pumping at an accelerated rate and oxygenated blood needs to travel to your hard-working leg muscles before circulating back to your heart to be re-oxygenated. When you stop cycling abruptly after going full bore, your blood can pool in your lower extremities, leading to a rapid drop in blood pressure, a shortage of blood being sent to your head and heart, and symptoms such as lightheadedness, dizziness, muscle cramps, and nausea. True story: There was a woman in a friend of mine’s class who was new to indoor cycling and she rode hard to the very end; when it was time to stretch, she quickly hopped off the bike without cooling down, only to faint, knocking down the woman behind her as well.

When the fainter came to, she was fine but the woman behind her got a big bump on her head from hitting the wall.

Neglecting to cool down can worsen stiff, sore muscles later. You’ve probably heard about the phenomenon known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), the discomfort that typically occurs 24 to 48 hours after exercise that’s a result of tiny tears in the muscle fibers.

Cooling down after a workout can help minimize DOMS. A 2012 study from California State University found that when participants did a moderate-intensity cycling cool-down after a strength training session, they experienced a significant decrease in DOMS, compared to those who just rested after their workouts. The theory: The increased blood flow to the exercised muscles helped ease soreness in those muscles. (Using a foam roller after your cycling workout can help, too.)

Cooling down can help your body recover faster. After an intense cycling session, lactic acid, a byproduct of exercise, accumulates in your muscles, which can lead to fatigue. Doing a 5 to 10-minute cool-down after cycling hard can help reduce your blood lactate levels. A 2013 study from the University of Milan in Italy found that engaging in a period of active recovery (such as cycling at a gentle pace) led to lower blood lactate levels after high-intensity cycling, whereas stretching didn’t have much of an effect in this respect.


The cool-down gives you a chance to appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Rather than stopping abruptly and heading for the exit, taking a few minutes to ease out of a high-intensity workout gives your heart rate a chance to come down gradually and your mind a chance to decompress. Take this as an opportunity to breathe slowly and deeply and reflect on what your body just did, how you broadened your comfort zone physically and mentally, and how you feel now. The cool-down period can help you reach a new equilibrium, one in which you feel a greater connection between your mind and body and a sense of pride in yourself. Enjoy it!

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