Thursday, October 15, 2009
Gina Kolata And The Art Of Saying Nothing
Today the NY Times ran an article deconstructing the time-honored exercise cool-down, finally deeming it unnecessary for most of us. The problem with the article, however, was that its deconstruction forgot to mention the primary reason most fitness experts include a cool-down: to speed up the recovery process.
Is the Exercise Cool-Down Really Necessary?
We’ve seen this kind of misguided analysis before. From the same author, in fact. In 2007 Kolata made the best seller list with a book claiming that our genes were making us fat. Never mind the right-in-front-of-our-eyes fact that there’s no way genetics could explain the massive increase in body fat percentage over one generation, Kolata’s son trained for a marathon and only lost 3 pounds. OMG, there just has to be a money-making hook in that story!
In the same vein, she’s now demystified the reason behind the cool-down, and deemed it useless. Except she hasn’t because she didn’t bother identifying that actual reason.
In what she does present, she still refutes herself by showing some science that a cool-down can be medically dangerous to avoid after intense exercise.
“If you are well trained, your heart rate is slow already, and it slows down even faster with exercise,” he (Dr. Paul Thompson) said. “Also, there are bigger veins with a large capacity to pool blood in your legs.”
So, well, most of us aren’t well trained. But what if we are? Most of us who begin any exercise program have a goal of being well trained at some point and then, well okay, we need to cool down.
But she means the rest of us. For all of the lazy, deconditioned masses, she states, “… it’s not clear what the cool-down is supposed to do. Some say it alleviates muscle soreness. Others say it prevents muscle tightness or relieves strain on the heart.”
“Ooo, ooo,” I say, raising my hand from the back of the room. “I know why we cool down after a workout!”
But, apparently, she decided that interviewing someone who might know the answer, like a trainer, would be counterproductive to her main point. So no one asked me, nor any trainer, or if she did she didn’t like what they had to say and omitted it. So I’ll answer her anyway and maybe someone will tell her.
The reason we cool down is to lengthen muscles that have been contracted during the workout. I mean, there’s the heart/blood pooling thing to avoid to but, as one of her cited experts stated, most of us do this anyway by showing, changing clothes, etc. But there’s a passel of good science showing the benefit of post-exercise stretching leading to increased performance. Apparently, it just didn’t fit into her sales pitch.