Part of our study guide series
The Cool Down Component
The aim of the cool down component is to return the body and mind to a pre exercise state, and it should include activities to maintain and perhaps develop flexibility, reduce physical and mental stress (relaxation), and allow participants to leave feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and warm!
It may also be necessary to provide exercises that gradually reduce the exercising heart rate, though this may have already been achieved within the aerobic cool down/pulse lowering activity.
The properties of water and their effects of water on the structure and content of the cool down component:
The cooling properties of water make it generally appropriate to reduce the time spent on this component as the tendency will be for participants to cool down quickly. However this is still relative to the intensity of the workout, the fitness levels of the class participants and indeed, the temperature of the pool.
It is essential that the cool down is adequate and therefore effective, so that participants do not leave feeling cold! Therefore it is advisable to combine static stretches with exercised that will help to maintain body temperature e.g. moving stretches and lower intensity mobility and pulse raising movements. Additionally it may be more appropriate to select shorter held stretches to maintain range of movement, as opposed to developmental stretches that her held longer, as they will cause the body to cool down too quickly.
Whilst the floatation created by the water can provide support for some stretch positions and therefore enhance the range of motion achieved, it may also decrease stability and make it difficult for participants to balance and totally relax into positions. Since these are essential pre-requisites to safer and effective developmental stretching, it is perhaps more advisable to concentrate on maintenance stretches. The use of the poolside, floatation devices and/or propulsive movements may assist with balance and therefore it is essential that particular attention be paid to the required starting/balancing position.
It has already been specified that the resistance created by the water should prevent participants from reaching the end of their range of movement too quickly so full range of motion stretches are safer. Additionally the muscle work required of the agonist/prime mover to overcome the resistance of the water will help to maintain body temperature.
The decreased ability to observe participants alignment makes it essential for the teacher to carefully demonstrate and explain the correct alignment of each stretch position. It is equally important to encourage participants to move gently into and out of all stretch positions ensuring that they understand what they should be feeling and where.
The combined effects of the properties of water require that stretch and relaxation exercises be combined with lower intensity mobility and pulse raising moves to maintain body temperature. Therefore the duration of the cool down can generally be decreased but this is still dependent on pool temperature, intensity of workout, and the fitness of the participants.
Maintenance stretches only (due to decreased balance, decreased temperature). Some stretch positions will need to be different
Moving stretches are safer
Use of relaxation techniques will be dependent on pool temperature, confidence of participants, floatation equipment available
Re-mobilise to help promote warmth
Music should create a relaxed atmosphere but still enable rhythmic moves to be incorporated to keep warm