A warm up and cool down doesn’t have to be long but they do have to exist. Whether your a high level athlete or just the casual runner done correctly, warming up and cooling down can reduce the risk of injury and improve your overall athletic performance.
Warming up helps to prepare your body for any aerobic exercise. A warm up generally consists of doing the activity you are about to do but at a less intense pace, slowly increasing heart rate and, in turn, blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. Warming up increases your range of motion in preparation for activity.
How to warm up correctly
A good warm up consists of at least 5-10 minutes of cardio and then 2-5 minutes of light stretching and strengthening. Cardio of any form is good but it is best to do a similar form of exercise to what you will be doing. For example a runner should start with a slow to brisk walk 5-10 minutes before starting their run followed by stretching the lower body (legs, Glutes, lower back) and arms. The more intense the exercise the longer the warm up should be.
A cool down is just as important as a warm up but often skipped or seen as unnecessary. After exercise your heart is still beating at a faster then usual rate, your body temperature is raised and blood vessels dilated. Stopping to fast could mean sickness or feeling as though you will pass out.
How to cool down correctly
Cooling down is similar to a warm up in you do the same activity at a less intense rate. For example a runner should walk for 2-3 minutes or until heart rate is at 120bpm. By doing this you are slowly bringing the heart rate back to resting and allowing time for muscles to recover after intense exercise. It is a good time to stretch as the muscles to improve flexibility as they are all still warm.
Stretching should be incorporated at the end of your warm up and/or cool down. If doing stretching during warm up try not to stay in a stretch for long periods of time. Stretching is ideal at the beginning of the cool down period as the muscles are still warm and it helps to decrease the build up of lactic acid, reducing muscles soreness, cramping and stiffness.
Tips for stretching:
- Avoid static stretching during warm up, holding stretches to improve flexibility is best suited to cool down
- The stretch should be strong but not painful
- Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds and if you feel like it needs more move to the other side and then return for a second round
- Do not bounce in a stretch
- Breathe while stretching, exhale as you go into the stretch and inhale while you hold
If you take the time to warm up and cool down correctly your body will thank you with less injury, more energy during workouts and you’ll be training better than ever.