Every trainer, every workout plan, every DVD and workout app will tell you to warm up and cool down and most people will maybe try it the first few times if that and then start to skip it purely because it takes up time. This is a mistake; please trust me on this. How we start and finish our workouts can be just as important as the workout itself.
“What is this reason, really?” you may ask! Well the warm up is a little session at the beginning of your workout that is all about preparing your body for the hard-core exercise you are about to do. It is about steadily raising your heart rate, which raises circulation of blood around the body and raises your body temperature all of which drastically reduces your risk of injury! Your muscles get more oxygen, gradually become a little warmer and your mind becomes more focused on what you are here to do…win win!
Your warm up only needs to be around 3-5 minutes long (unless you want a more gradual and thorough warm up). All it takes is maybe a little light cardio such as some walking, a light jog or maybe a little aerobic type dancing around your living room (or the gym for a laugh!) Or if you are doing resistance training then maybe doing some warm up sets (lighter weights) just to wake up your muscles and let them know what you’re about to put them through. Then just to really get yourself ready for your main exercises do a little dynamic stretching (light stretching while moving- like swinging your arms or legs) this means your joints are as mobilised as you can get them and you can use your full range of motion within your exercise (for example a lower squat – yay!). Think of it as a rehearsal for your main session.
The cool down is for getting your body back to normal so you can continue your day- that’s the basic gist of it, although there are many arguments saying that the cool down is understudied and really doesn’t do much at all. The original thought behind the cool down was to disperse remaining lactic acid, thought to be the cause of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (or DOMS) and therefore lessen any muscle soreness later on. However, that theory on the relationship between lactic acid and DOMS has been disproved. That’s a different issue. The better reason for a cool down is to prevent ‘blood pooling’. If you have been doing anything really hard-core your heart rate and circulation are going nuts, and you then suddenly stop, there is a risk of your blood ‘pooling’. I know, sounds horrific. It basically means your blood will find it harder to go, say, from your legs back up to your heart and can therefore cause dizziness, nausea and can even cause you to pass out. Like your warm up, the cool down doesn’t need to be particularly long. This can be taking a walk, or a gentle jog (similar to the warm up but think more about settling down than gearing yourself up) or again having a gentle boogie around your living room! It just means you are letting your circulation calm down rather than coming to an abrupt halt, giving your body more of a chance to catch up with you.
If you don’t already, try adding a warm up and cool down to your workout and see how much it can help you body’s recovery and overall improvements xx