I know you all know that you’re supposed to warm up before every workout, and cool down after.
But DO you? I know I don’t. I never have. Sure, I may have done a few little stretches before games, meets, whatever in high school. But in practice, during our warm up jogs, you could find me hiding out under the bleachers. True story.
So, doing the C25K, the very beginning of the workout is a five minute walk. EVERY SINGLE TIME. I’ve been doing it, begrudgingly. Couldn’t I be spending my time, I don’t know, on the ACTUAL WORKOUT? And it got me to thinking –
What is all the hubbub over warming up and cooling down as the virtual bread to the workout sandwich?
I hit the internets and put on my research hat. Over to Google. ‘Warm Up Importance.” Click on search.
46,600,000 results. Give or take a few hundred thousand. Gulp! I’ll stick with the first few articles.
If you’re anything like me, you hate sifting through a ton of information – so, I’m going to bullet point the good stuff for you. You’re welcome!
What are the benefits of warming up?
- Increased movement of blood through your tissues, making the muscles more pliable.
- Helps you prepare mentally and physically for a workout, reducing the chance of injury.
- During warm up, an already present injury or illness may be recognized and further prevented.
- Increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. This prevents you from getting out of breath early or too easily.
- Prepares your muscles for stretching
- Prepares your heart for an increase in activity, preventing a rapid increase in blood pressure
- Primes your nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for exercise
- Improves coordination and reaction time.
Whoa. That’s some good stuff. Especially that part about avoiding injury. And improving coordination and reaction time – I’m a huge klutz – I’ll take whatever help I can get!
Now, about cooling down.
Why should we take the time to do it?
A cool down:
- Helps your heart rate and breathing gradually return to normal.
- Prevents fainting or dizziness, which can result from blood pooling in the extremities when vigorous activity is stopped suddenly.
- Prepares your muscles for the next exercise session, which enables you to compete again at the same level within a short period of time (whether it’s tomorrow or a few days from now).
- Removes waste products (such as lactic acid), which can build up during vigorous activity.
- Reduces the immediate post-exercise tendency for muscle spasm or cramping.
- Reduces muscle soreness and stiffness.
Good stuff with the avoiding fainting. I think we can all take a few minutes to lull our bodies back to a less active state if it means we’re not going to pass out!
So, what exactly does a warm up or cool down entail? How much do you really HAVE to do (I’m all about working smarter, not harder)?
In the case of warming up, activity specific warming up is recommended. As in, if you’re running, warm up with a walk. Or if you’re strength training, warm up by doing the exercises in your workout at a much lower weight. Your warm up should be pretty much what you’re going to do as exercise, just lower impact and slower speed. Warm ups should last from five to ten minutes, a little longer if you’re exercising outside in the cold (side note: stretching is not the same as warming up. In fact, stretching should be saved till the end of the workout, after cool down).
Okay, that’s easy.
As with the warm up, a cool down should be sport/activity specific, but UNLIKE the warm up, you are going to start the cool down at your full speed, gradually decreasing intensity. So don’t go from a full out sprint to sitting on the ground. Or something like that. Ten to fifteen minutes is usually enough time to allow the heart rate to return to normal.
Knowing all of the benefits of the warm up and cool down, well, I don’t really have an excuse NOT TO anymore. But still, there is that impatient part of me that wants to literally start my workout the minute I step out the door.
So here’s the deal. From now on, the warm up and cool down are PART of my workout. Not optional.
They’re not the bread on the sandwich. It’s not a sandwich at all. It’s a soup, all mish mashed together. Maybe a casserole? Okay, my analogies leave much to be desired.
So, there you have it. The warm up and the cool down ARE actually pretty important.
Tell us, do you warm up and cool down? Are you going to start?
Source: Spark People