You have just finished your round, you played well and you are looking forward to tomorrow's round or completing chores around the house. Then it hits. It may take a couple hours or it may wait until the following morning. But when it hits, you know it. Every muscle and fiber in your body aches. You feel as though you went 10 rounds with the heavyweight champ.
What did you do wrong? You warmed up before your round, stayed hydrated, ate sensibly, and maybe even took a few Advil to keep things flowing. So why are you suffering and in so much pain? Well, like so many golfers this time of year, you neglected to cool your body down properly.
With heat index temperatures in triple digits, it's quite easy to just jump into your air-conditioned car or put your feet up and enjoy a cold one at the 19th hole under a cool fan. Unfortunately, this is exactly what your body does not need.
After four to six hours in the heat and sunshine, your body is warm and limber. You then proceed to plop yourself down in the cool air and freeze your body in that position for the next 30 minutes or more. If you've twisted or strained a muscle out on the course, you need to give your body time to recover.
If you walk when you play, you are getting a great deal of cardiovascular exercise. Your heart rate is high and your blood is pumping though your muscles, providing them with fresh oxygen. Suddenly stopping all of this comes as a shock to your body.
If you don't let your body recover, you risk more than just a few sore muscles. You risk injury by not allowing your muscles the proper means to recover from all of that work. In order for your body to heal itself and keep itself healthy, it must cool down slowly and efficiently. There are a number of ways to cool down slowly.
One way is to go to the range and work on a few short-iron shots. Just short pitch shots of no more than 50 yards or so. You could even practice your chipping. This allows your muscles to relax gradually. It also allows you to hone those scoring skills while your body is in playing condition.
Practice your putting. Spend some time on the most important aspect of the game. Chances are you added a few strokes to your score on the course by missing one or more of those short putts. Here is your chance to get that confidence back, while helping your body cool down. Your body doesn't have to work very hard at all during the putting stroke. Just don't strain your back bending down to pull all of those balls out of the hole.
Find a quiet, shaded spot and do some stretching. Work on your neck, your lower back and your legs. The idea is to keep those muscles limber and stretched. If you cool your body too fast, your muscles contract quickly and stiffen up due to the sudden lack of activity. Muscles that stay stretched and limber are less likely to be injured and will recover from strain much more easily.
The best way to cool down is to take a warm shower. Start out with the water on the hotter side of warm and gradually ease the temperature down as your body relaxes and cools off. Try to spend more than five or ten minutes in the shower. I usually take a long 15 minute shower to get rid of all the sweat and soothe my muscles.
If you have made promises and have to be home right away, drive home with the windows down and leave the air conditioner off. You can keep a good flow of air moving by simply turning on the fan and set the a/c to vent.
Some doctors even recommend taking an aspirin to help with the blood flow to those aching muscles. Aspirin has a thinning effect on your blood helping it flow faster to those muscles. Be sure to check with your doctor before trying this approach.
It's very important to warm up properly before your round to play your best. It's equally as important to cool down properly after your round, not only will your round of golf or work the following day be better, but your body will thank you.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.