Warm Up, Cool Down
Warming up and cooling down are too often overlooked in many training programmes. Time pressures make it tempting to skip a warm-up, but you do so at your peril. Warming up is essential because it gets your body ready for intense work while minimizing the risk of injury and maximizing your potential to learn and improve.
A warm-up need take no longer than 20 minutes; begin by skipping, jogging, or working on a cross-trainer for 10 minutes, and then carry out 10 minutes of mobilization exercises. Consistently warming up will improve your level of performance.
BENEFITS OF WARMING UP
- Increased heart rate to prepare you for work.
- Increased blood flow through active tissues, Which leads to increased metabolism.
- Increased speed of contraction and relaxation of warmed muscles.
- Reduction in pre-workout muscle stiffness.
- Better use of oxygen by Warmed muscles.
- Better quality and fluency of movement from warmed muscles.
- Higher temperatures, which help nerve transmission and metabolism in muscles.
- Specific warm-ups can help with what physiologists call “motor unit recruitment”. A motor unit consists of a nerve fibre together with all its associated muscle fibres. Warming up will increase both the number of motor units brought into play and the rate at which they fire (contract).
- Increased mental focus on the training and competition.
Sometimes called dynamic stretching, or movement preparation, mobilization exercises are controlled movements, where you go through a full range of motion without stopping.
They are an ideal way to prepare for a workout because they reduce muscle stiffness and help reduce the chance of injury. As you become more advanced and flexible, you can add a controlled swing to push a body part past its usual range of movement. The force of the swing may be gradually increased but should never become too extreme.
Warm-up is not the time for static stretches – those in which you put your body into a position where the target muscles are under tension. Indeed, using static stretches before a workout may reduce your capacity to release power and does little or nothing to minimize the chances of injury.
COOLING DOWN AND RECOVERY TECHNIQUES
When you have finished your workout, you should bring your body back down to its pre-exercise state in a controlled manner. During a workout, your body is under stress: muscles get damaged and waste products build up. A good cool-down will help your body to repair itself.
Cooling down need not be a lengthy process: start with 5-10 minutes of gentle jogging or walking, which decreases your body temperature and allows the waste products to be removed from your working muscles. Follow this with 5-10 minutes of static stretches, which help your muscles to relax and the muscle fibres to re-align and re-establish their normal range of movement. To carry out a static stretch, extend the target muscle(s) as far as it can comfortably go, easing into the stretch, and then hold that position for around 10 seconds.
Warming up gets your body ready for intense work while minimizing the risk of injury.
Post-exercise static stretching is controversial. Some suggest the cool-down phase of the workout is an ideal time for “developmental stretching”, which is designed to increase muscle flexibility and your range of movement. Developmental stretches have the same form as simple static stretches: you first hold the static stretch for around 10 seconds, then take the stretch a little further – 1-2 cm (1/2 in) will do – and hold for another 20-30 seconds.
Others propose that stretching a muscle after exercise may actually increase muscle damage and delay recovery. Picture a muscle like a pair of tights. Following intense exercise the muscle is full of small micro-tears which are akin to small nicks in the tights. Stretching a muscle at this point is like stretching the tights; possibly not good news. A happy medium may be some light, gentle developmental stretching after your workout for muscles that feel particularly tight. Don’t compare yourself to others in the gym – some people have great mobility and you could be in trouble if you try to match their range of movement.
BENEFITS OF COOLING DOWN
- Allows the heart rate to recover to its resting rate.
- Reduces the level of adrenaline in the blood.
- Potentially reduces Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), pain that is sometimes experienced one to three days after intense muscle activity.
- Aids in the reduction of waste products in the blood, including lactic acid.