The term cool down is frequently referenced within our dance practice, it’s seldom incorporated into our dance sessions by practitioners and is often expected to be a component of our personal structure.
So what is it all about? This article aims to provide you with a background on the subject and to offer suggestions as how to implement informed strategies into your daily dance practice.
Here’s the science bit:
Cool down is also referred to as ‘active recovery’, this involves reducing the heart rate slowly after exercise. The intention is to avoid a sharp decline in heart rate which in turn will facilitate circulation, the removal of waste products, avoiding muscle soreness and cramping.
Some extra information:
During exercise that is predominately focused on your legs, your heart will send blood to those muscles to ensure that you are able to fulfill those movements. This means that there will be a lack of blood circulating from your heart to your legs and back to your heart.
If you were to sit down straight after your dance session your heart rate will plummet and the blood will not effectively circulate back to the heart. The burning sensation that you may often feel after leg intensive exercise is caused by blood lactate, some level of this is beneficial, but if it remains present in your leg muscles after class, it may result in muscle soreness, cramping and poor recovery.
You could instead try the following:
- 10 minutes of slowed down dance specific movements from the choreography you were performing, followed by 5 minutes of your favourite stretches
- If you have just done a workout of weights/ running, cool-down with 5-10 minutes of light jogging on the treadmill/ cross-trainer/ exercise bike
- Do this at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (use fitbits, apple watches or the heart rate monitor on gym equipment to help you calculate this)
Here’s an example:
If you are 18 years old
- Subtract 18 from 220
- 202 beats per minute (bpm) is your maximum heart rate for intense exercise/ dance
To work out the your heart rate for optimal cool-down benefits (60-70%)
- 60% of 202 bpm= 0.60 x 202= 121 bpm
- 70% of 202 bpm= 0.70 x 202= 141 bpm
So as an 18 year old if you reduce your heart rate to between 121 and 141 beats per minute, you will have the best chance of reducing blood lactate and heart rate.
- Following this process will help you to recover properly from your dance classes
- It will optimise your next performance level
- Make your body feel more energised and less achy
- Make you feel less tired and feint after classes
“I don’t have time between classes”
If you are heading across to another class your heart rate will reduce anyway. The important thing to remember is to stay lightly active for 15 minutes, this is preferable to sitting or collapsing on the floor.
“But I stretch after my class, isn’t that cooling down?”
Stretching is part of the cooling down process but not the entirety of it. Try to follow this rule:
- Light activity at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate
- Dynamic stretching
- Static stretching
In conclusion, developing a better understanding of the cool down process will help you to understand your body. You will be able to control your recovery better during those busy times at university and take care of those dancing legs.
Seema De Jorge-Chopra MSc
Dance Science Graduate Intern