Warming Up and Cooling Down

One of the most overlooked aspects of training is warming up and cooling down.  When I first started getting into training, I would never really take the time to properly warm up and cool down and the next day, I could feel it.  When you take a few minutes to warm up, you get your body ready to put it through the stress of training and prevent injuries.  Cooling down after your session is just as important because you can prevent soreness and promote a little bit of extra flexibility.

Before you begin to warm up, it is a good idea to get blood pumping through your muscles.  Bodyweight exercises like push ups, squats, and lunges really get the heart rate up.  Trying to stretch cold muscles is not as effective as stretching warmed up ones.  This also allows your joints to get acclimated to the activity at hand.  You don’t have to kill yourself with the body weight exercises, maybe 30 seconds of push ups and lunges, then ending with 30 seconds of jumping jacks.

Now, you can start to do your stretches.  I really like toe touches because it helps with the hamstrings.  When you have tight hamstrings, your lower back becomes tight and lower back pain can be extremely painful.  Doing about 5 minutes stretches is a good amount of time to get everything nice and loose.  Make sure to hit all of the major muscle groups like your chest, legs back and core.  Another tip is not to bounce when trying to warm up; when you bounce at this stage in your workout, you have a greater chance of tearing something.

After you have completed your normal workout, whether it is strength training or cardio, you should really take about 10 minutes to ease out of the intensity of your workout.  For a 30 minute cardio session, I like to walk or spin at an easy pace for about 5 minutes.  The longer your cardio session, the longer your cool down needs to be.  As for strength training, once you perform your last rep of your last set, you can start to stretch.  Unlike warming up, you can bounce a little bit when stretching for your cool down.  Your joint and muscles have had plenty of use and blood flow through them.  Again, hitting all of the major muscle groups will help prevent soreness and promote recovery.  For cardio, I really concentrate on the legs and hips, since that is what bothers me the most the next day.

Once you get your warm up and cool down routines down, it will be much easier to remember to incorporate them into your program.  After you have done this properly, you will notice your endurance and strength will improve while still minimizing injuries, recovery time and soreness.  It makes a really big difference and you will see the results quicker than you think.

Posted on Mar 30 2010, under Training | No Comments »

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