An All Encompassing Guide To Cool-Downs in Kids, Adolescents & Young Athletes

In the last article, we delved into the components of a great warm-up and gave examples of how to structure warmups with intentions based on the specificity of the session. And today, we’re going to delve into what makes a great cool-down, and how you can implement this with your child or team

Back in the good old days, the cool-down consisted of a few high fives, a team talk, some “stretching”, and a run to the canteen for a sausage sizzle and can of coke. Nowadays, people take their cool-downs more seriously, which is great, but again, there is no intention or specificity to it

And this harms kids and young athletes, as the cool down is a great opportunity to begin the prep for the next training session or game. And even more harm is done due to that fact that many believe the cool down simply consists of some light stretching and that’s it - when in reality, it’s a much bigger beast

The good news is, though, it’s simply to comprehend and has unrivalled benefit

 

The Cool-Down Components

Light Anaerobic Activity: approximately 5 minutes of very light; ~30-40%, anaerobic work. This can be a walk, jog, cycle, row - just simply pick something that utilises whatever equipment you have on hand. This begins to bring the heart rate down, activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS - rest and digest), and flushes blood through the muscles to begin promoting recovery

Passive & PNF Stretching + Mobility Work: this should go for approximately 10-15minutes, and if you saw THIS ARTICLE you’d know about all the different types of stretches and why/how we perform passive & PNF post training. Pick a few that target muscles used during the game/training session and give them about a 30sec hold each. You should also use mobility tools during this time, like foam rollers or lacrosse balls, again targeting specific areas that have been used during the session. The key here though is to use smooth rollers and balls only, as spiky ones should be used pre-training as they “excite the muscle” and fire it up, whereas the smooth ones help relax and activate the PNS. You should also go slow on these mobility tools, taking the time to do them properly and give each area the focus it deserves

Nutrition + Hydration: you’ve just spent time tearing the muscle apart and the body down, that now it needs to rebuild and recover. The way to do this is with food and liquids. Water is essential to remain hydration and replace lost fluids, and if the training or game went for longer than 60 minutes, you may want a sports drink to replace electrolytes that have been lost. You will also want some form of carbohydrates (often in the sports drinks) and a form of protein, as this combination will help fuel the body and begin the rebuilding process. Flavoured Milk and Milo are fantastic options here…

Relax & Switch Off: we like to call this “coming down mentally”, and it is vital to overall health and performance. Switch everything off and simply relax, letting your thoughts drift to nothing in particular. This will decrease stress and again help to stimulate the PNS

Ice Baths & Contrast Showers: research is not consistent with whether this is effective or not. Personally, I find them incredibly effective at reducing my soreness and increasing my recovery, however it differs for everyone. Our personal favourite is either 3min in an ice bath or under a cold only shower or a 5min contrast shower of 30sec hot and 30sec cold mix

Compression Machines/Apparel: we do not recommend these for kids or young athletes, as they’re our “supplements”
 

Biggest Takeaways

That’s it, simple. Include all of these in your cool down routine, and watch your recovery and performance soar

  • spend 5 minutes working on very light aerobic work
  • spend 10-15 minutes using passive & PNF stretching, and smooth mobility tools focusing on specific area’s that have been worked during the game/training session
  • hydrate and re-fuel yourself well, focusing on replacing lost electrolytes and getting good sources of carbohydrates and proteins
  • mentally switch off and relax
  • utilise ice baths or contrast showers

Next week we will look at the perfect post-nutrition fuel

Nick Maier