3 Ways to down-regulate post-training
Down-regulating after a training session is a crucial part of the process and is often forgotten about or compromised because it doesn’t particularly involve a whole lot of hard work or show immediate results.
What it does do is help facilitate recovery by shifting our nervous system from sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest). More on the details behind this can be found in our article on breathing and 'what goes up, must come down'.
Breathing is one of the most simple movements we can do, yet it is often performed horribly and not given enough attention.
A simple drill involves lying on the floor, placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly, taking long slow deliberate breaths, letting both your stomach and chest expand on the inhale and naturally collapse on the exhale.
To really generate effective down-regulation take the time to hold your breath for a handful of seconds at the top of each inhale and the bottom of each exhale as you go.
To understand how effective it might have been, measure your heart rate immediately after you train, perform breathing exercises, and measure your heart rate again. Ideally you should see a large downward shift in your heart rate.
2. Foam rolling or massage
Now most of us don’t have the luxury of having a massage therapist on hand immediately post training.
This doesn’t mean you can’t take the time to give your body some love.
By jumping on a foam roller or massage ball and going after the typically tight spots around your hips, neck and shoulders. It is probably going to cause a bit of discomfort and your body is probably going to respond by holding tension.
The easiest and most effective way is to manage this response by trying to stay soft and relaxed, breathing deeply and allow for a ‘release’ like feeling to happen. You’re probably noticing there is a relationship with the breathing drill described above.
3. Cold to warm bath or shower
Ice baths and cold showers have become quite the fad of late. The mechanisms are pretty straightforward. Think about the way your body responds when you jump into cold water. Your breath shortens, everything feels like it tightens up and it is seriously uncomfortable. Again, the quickest way to manage this response is to bring your awareness to your breathing and try and relax your body as much as possible.
Either that or turn the hot water on quickly.
Going from the discomfort of cold to the comfort of warm probably results in long exhales and yes, your body calms down immediately. The state of comfort is going to have a neurological effect allowing things to slow down and again allowing you to shift your nervous state (the aim of the game).
These are just a few of several different ways to down-regulate your nervous system and your body very quickly post training.