You must have seen athletes warming up before their competitions. Why do they do it? Well, it has multiple benefits. If you have ever struggled with muscle soreness after exercise, maybe it was because you skipped the warm-up.
The warm-up depends on the sport, your ages and level of activity. However, at a minimum you need to spend 5 to 10 minutes of activity (longer in winter) involving the muscles you are about to tax in your workout. A warm-up should always begin gently, gradually building up to the level at which you train or play.
So what does a warm-up really do? Well, it raises your body temperature where the warm muscles can be stretched safely. It prepares you for action. It raises your breathing and heart rate so that your muscles and other organs receive extra oxygen and nutrients to cope with a bout of strenuous work.
When you stretch gently, it makes your muscles more flexible. This prevents muscle injury due to sudden stress on an unprepared muscle. The slow pace also helps you to concentrate on good form before you start exercising.
A warm-up could be a short walk or ride on an exercise bike. Follow up with another 5 to 10 minutes of gentle stretches, keeping within your activity range. Be sure you know how to stretch safely. If you need some help, please contact our friendly staff.
Cooling down after your workout is just as important. Here, you allow your muscles to relax slowly. As the body winds down, the lactic acid which has built up in your muscles dissipates. This makes sure your intense muscular activity doesn’t upset your body’s functioning. Cooling down also helps your mind come back to its normal routine. A few static stretches help your muscles reach their maximum flexibility while they are still warm. They can then relax to their resting length instead of remaining cramped and knotted.
Cooling down can be as simple as continuing to run at a slower pace for another 5 to 10 minutes, or using the exercise bike at walking pace.
A word about stretches might be useful:
- Never stretch to the point of pain
- Stretch only after warming up.
- Stretch actively during the warm-up: do static stretches when you cool down.
- Stretch all muscles that you intend to work out.
- Use your breathing to ease your stretching: inhale deeply while getting into position, exhale during the stretch.
- Stretch slowly and listen to your body.
- Never bounce or stretch rapidly if you don’t want to hurt your muscles or tendons.
- Hold your stretch as far and long as your comfort level.
We can teach you to stretch and warm-up safely, and add value to your exercise routine. Get in touch with us if you are planning to start an exercise routine. You’d be amazed what a difference warming up and cooling down can make to your workout.