One of the first lessons you should learn on your fitness journey is the importance of a good warm-up. However, what is almost equally important is taking the time to give your body a proper cool-down after an intense workout. A good cool-down should bring your heart rate, body temperature and breathing rate back down to normal as you stretch and look after the muscles you’ve just hit.The Cool DownCooling down basically allows your body to actively return all systems to their normal state. A sudden stop in exercising can cause blood pooling or a build-up of lactic acid and cramping. So, save yourself the pain and nuisance of it for later, and look after your body post-workout. Stretch It OutA good cool-down will take around 5-10 minutes of lower intensity exercise, followed by stretching. Pay close attention to stretching out the muscles that you have just targeted in your workout. This is the time for static stretching. There has been a lot of recent research into the issues associated with static stretching before a workout, but after you have trained then static stretching is hugely beneficial.If you have the time and inclination, it can help to do a yoga flow or some yoga poses. Doing yoga will also help tone your muscles and is a nice follow up to a strength routine. Make the most of your muscles being warm and ready to increase your flexibility. Pay attention to your largest muscles groups and the ones that have had the most strain put on them. Be sure to stretch your hamstrings out as tight hamstrings can have a negative affect over your lower back and therefore entire body.Also, focus on stretching out your psoas. To stretch your hamstrings, lie on your back and hook and resistance band or towel around your foot. Straighten your leg and pull on either end of the band to stretch your leg up and back towards your head as far as it is comfortable to do so.FocusWhile you are stretching, try to focus on one muscle group at a time. Don’t get too caught up in wanting to leave the gym that you just do a few very general stretches and then jump in your car. Try walking to and from the gym, but if it’s too far, then be sure to give yourself a proper warm-up and cool-down. Focus on the muscles you are wanting to stretch and give them a few repetitions of static stretching to lengthen them out and encourage blood flow.Roll With ItUsing a foam roller will change your life. A good time to roll your muscles out is after a workout. It will help to relieve any tension you might be storing in your muscles and will improve your mobility, increase blood flow, and reduce the likelihood of developing muscle knots and cramps later on. Roll out the muscles in your legs and back and get the blood flowing freely throughout your body.BreatheBreathing may be innate, but it is not to be overlooked. After a workout your body needs oxygen to recover and begin to repair itself. Focus on your breathing and be sure to work through a decent period of deep, rhythmic breaths. This will also help calm your nervous system and prepare you for the rest of your day. Try 20-30 deep inhales and exhales while you are stretching to get your breath centred.HydrateYou don’t have to be a genius to realise that during exercise your body loses a lot of fluids. Rehydrating is key after intensive exercise. Drink plenty of water straight after your workout and for the following few hours. Replenishing your water supplies will help decrease muscle soreness and increase your flexibility.Incorporate a proper cool-down into your workout. Don’t convince yourself that you don’t have time for it, make the time. Your body will thank you for it, and will become more responsive over time.