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Following a training session, the cool-down period allows for the gradual return of body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate to near-resting levels. Additionally an active cool-down period serves to maintain adequate venous return to reduce the chance of post-activity hypotension and to facilitate the removal of lactic acid more effectively than a non-active cool-down.

Fitness for Arborists: The Cool Down

By John Amtmann and Brian Schwarzkoph


 


In the April issue of Arbor Age, we discussed the importance of the warm-up — to increase body temperature — so that we may safely enter the more demanding stimulus phase of the exercise session. Some people, in order to save time, bypass the lower intensity warm-up as if it’s a waste of time. It’s not. Likewise, following a training session, the cool-down period allows for the gradual return of body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate to near-resting levels. Additionally an active cool-down period serves to maintain adequate venous return to reduce the chance of post-activity hypotension and to facilitate the removal of lactic acid more effectively than a non-active cool-down.


Nonetheless, many, usually the same people who skipped the warm-up, zip away without any cool-down at all. I know, I know, there are places to go, people to see, and business to take care of. What would I, a humble health-fitness-arborist professional, say to such a person?


“Hold on there partner, it’s [ital>cool<ital] to cool down!”


Based on what you’ve already learned from the previous articles, your total exercise regimen should include the following:


• Cardiorespiratory training — biking, jogging, walking, swimming. Anything that is rhythmic in nature and can be continued for prolonged periods of time.


• Musculoskeletal training — strength fitness training that is balanced and includes the use of safe exercises to produce an overload stimuli to the major muscle groups.


• Flexibility training — safe stretching exercises for each major muscle group.


Your individual exercise session doesn’t have to include all three types of training each time you workout. Sometimes you’ll only need isolated cardio or strength training sessions. Planning your exercise on a weekly or monthly basis will allow you to determine when to include training for all three components in an exercise session or only one; there is room for personal preference and creativity. Continue to have a balanced program but pick the activities and movements that you enjoy most. Turn your fitness program into something you enjoy, and look forward to doing every day. Each and every exercise session, however, MUST include a warm-up AND a cool-down. The warm-up and cool-down always sandwich the more intense phases — the stimulus phases — of the cardio and/or strength training sessions.


The cool-down should consist of 5 to 10 minutes of low-intensity activities such as slow jogging, biking and/or walking. Monitor your heart rate; it should decrease during this time. Most cardio machines these days have accurate heart rate monitoring equipment, so this is an easy task. Following this 5 to 10 minutes, I recommend using the cool-down phase as an opportunity to concentrate on flexibility training. Flexibility is often ignored completely or only given a minimal time segment during the training session; this is a mistake. Flexibility decreases with age, and, as we become less flexible, our chance of injury increases. We can minimize our loss of flexibility if we dedicate time and patience to flexibility exercises during the cool-down.


There are various types of flexibility training techniques including static, active and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Active stretching involves moving a body segment through its range of motion in a controlled fashion. For example, holding your arms up in front of your body and parallel to the floor, move your arms away from each other until you feel a stretch in the chest area — holding that position is an active stretch for the chest. PNF stretching involves moving a body segment to its limit, followed by an isometric contraction, then passively stretching the body segment again further into its range of motion.


Static stretching is the most common form of stretching. Because of its’ simplicity, it is a practical way to develop and maintain flexibility. Though it simply involves consciously relaxing the muscle as it is elongated, static stretching has been found to be effective in developing and maintaining flexibility. Flexibility exercises for all of the major muscle groups should be performed throughout the week. Approximately two to four repetitions should be done for each stretch, and each one should be held for at least 15 seconds in order to effectively elongate the muscle. I encourage slowly moving into each stretch and taking more time — up to a minute — to settle into each stretch.


Many experts recommend daily stretching because the flexibility improvements from stretching, like exercise in general, are temporary. For example, a 6-week strength training program will probably show an improvement in overall strength fitness following the 6-week program; but, in time, those improvements will disappear altogether if the exercise isn’t continued. Much like the former jock who likes to reminisce about the physical feats once possible, physical fitness deteriorates if we don’t stay physically active. Likewise, any flexibility improvements are lost if stretching is not continued on a consistent basis.


The final stage of your exercise session is an important phase, remember, it’s cool to cool down.


 


Note: The warm-up and cool-down phases may be just as important to the industrial athlete during an average work-day. Warming up before the heavy work begins, and cooling-down during lunch and at the end of the work day, including some basic stretches, may help to prevent injury. Too often, professional arborists are in hurry to hop in the car and drive home; make time to take care of your body and it will take care of you by staying healthy enough to continue to do the job.


 


[ital>John Amtmann is a professor of Applied Health Science program at Montana Tech in Butte, Mont. He works as an arborist during the summer, and can be reached via e-mail at<ital] jamtmann@mtech.edu. [ital>Quarterback for the Montana Tech Orediggers, Brian Schwarzkoph is an Applied Health Science student at Montana Tech, and is a tree worker in his spare time. He can be reached via e-mail at<ital] BWSchwarzkoph@mtech.edu.

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