Warming up and cooling down is an essential part of any exercise session. Whilst time spent warming up and cooling down may seem like time that could be better spent actually exercising, here at Brooke Weston Fitness we believe that this is certainly not the case.
It is very important to warm up the body before exercise. This prepares your mind and body mentally and physically, reducing the risk of joint and muscle injury.
Warm up exercises prepare the body for exercising by increasing the blood flow to the muscles allowing them to loosen up, which can increase the flow of oxygen to the muscle cells. Doing this gradually raises the body’s temperature and helps the muscles become less stiff and more pliable.
This will also gradually increase the heart rate safely and divert blood away from other parts of the body such as the digestive system and take it to the muscles being exercised.
Stretching during a warm up will also improve range of motion and the flexibility of your joints. This should be done after the pulse raiser when the muscles are warmer, reducing the risk of injury.
Each fitness instructor will have their own opinion on the best method of stretching, but in general it is believed that ‘Dynamic stretching’ (sometimes called active stretching) is the most effective. This involves moving the muscle through its range, gradually increasing this each time to stretch the muscle. For example, perform lunges or squats before doing any plyometric lunges, increasing the range each time. Static stretches can also be used after dynamic stretches, but there is mixed opinions on whether there is any real benefit to doing this prior to exercise (always do it post workout). A lot of people still like to do static stretched prior to exercise though. To do it correctly, hold a static stretch at ‘mild discomfort’ for around 20 seconds. If the stretching sensation fades within this time, move a little further into the stretch until you can feel it again. After 20-30 seconds, relax the muscle and then repeat.
A warm up should cause mild sweating but it shouldn’t leave you fatigued.
You’re then ready to workout!
Cooling down after your workout allows for a gradual recovery of the heart rate and blood pressure. After physical activity, your body temperature is higher and your blood vessels are dilated. This means if you stop too fast, you may become light headed or even faint.
The cool down is just as important as the warm up. The aim is to decrease the intensity of the aerobic session and to return the body to a state of rest.
Cooling down has the effect of:
Preventing blood pooling, returning the blood back to the heart rather than allowing it to pool in the muscles that have been worked
Bringing the heart rate back down, GRADUALLY!
Preventing fainting by ensuring that the brain continues to receive a sufficient supply of blood and oxygen
Reducing the blood lactic acid levels
Use the first 3-5 minutes of the cool down by walking or a steady jog if you have been running/sprinting. This will slowly bring your breathing under control and back to normal.
Once your heart rate has returned to a state of rest you can then follow this with some stretching. Stretching the muscles groups you have used in your workout will return them to their normal length and reduce the delayed onset of muscle soreness, aid recovery and assist your body in its repair process.
Don’t forget to include some deep breathing as this will help to oxygenate your system.
Be sure to drink plenty after your workout!
If you would like further information about warming up and cooling down, please come and speak to any of our instructors, or myself, who will be more than happy to help.