Hey, do you warm up before, and then cool down after every training session?
All the cool people do! And by cool, I mean the ones who want to reduce their injury risk, improve their performance, and reduce their stiffness and soreness the next day.
Whether you’re a newbie who’s never touched a weight or performed a burpee, or a seasoned pro who’s been there, done that, and has the official competition t-shirt to prove it, everyone benefits from preparing the body to do work (warm up) and then helping it to begin recovery (cool down) after.
DYNAMIC WARM UPS ARE COOL
Your warm-up prepares your body for what you’re about to do so the exercises and drills you choose should generally reflect the activity. Keep the main purpose of the warm up in mind:
- Increase body temperature.
- Increase joint range of motion.
- Reduce post-exercise muscle soreness and stiffness
- Increase blood flow and oxygen to muscles and other soft tissue.
- Improve neural connection/activate central nervous system – meaning helps your body and brain to better talk to each other about what you’re doing.
- Increase your mental focus – so you’re focused and tuned
With this in mind, then, a runner might begin with a slow run and then break into knee ups, skipping and bounding drills. A weightlifter could start with stationary cycling, then move into hips circles, arm swings, leg swings, followed by a light warm up lifting set, before moving onto heavier training lifts. Prep for a functional training circuit might include jumping jacks, crawls, pushups, squats, pullups and lunge variations along with mobility and agility drills. Notice that there’s no static stretching, though. Your muscles should be warm and loose so moving your joints to increase your range of motion is key but generally, save any stretches longer than 60 seconds for the cool down, especially if your training workout includes any type of running or agility drills.
Your warm up also helps you to focus and tune in to the increasing demands being placed on your body. The more focused you are, the more likely you are to pay attention to things like alignment and body placement, so you lessen the risk of injury. Your body also has a chance to make the necessary adaptations and “understand” what you want so that it can perform properly and actually do what you want it to do.
The time it takes you to warm up should match your training as well. Generally, your warm up should be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on the nature and complexity of your workout. If you’re going out for your weekly long run, for instance, you may need only 5 or 10 minutes. On the other hand, our US Gymnastic Team members require at least 20 to 25 minutes to complete their official warm up before stepping out to compete – not to mention whatever they require individually before each event. The point is to keep in mind what you’re getting ready to do and prepare accordingly. You should also get to know your own body, along with any specific needs it may have – I always make sure to stretch my calves well before jumping/plyometric moves, for instance, because I’ve torn an Achilles tendon in the past while preparing for a fitness competition. Ultimately, you are the best judge of knowing when your body is ready to perform at a higher level so train smart.
COOL DOWNS ARE HOT
The cool down is arguably the most common area people tend to skip with their training. They may do some type of warm up, kill their workout…. and then just stand around chatting with a gym friend, sit and scroll around Instagram or, worse yet – get in the car and drive away. But is this really a bad thing? Recent research has suggested it’s not as bad as once thought for most people. But, before you nod your head and join them consider this.
Studies like this one and this one, for instance, suggest that your cool down alone won’t keep you from DOMS or feeling stiff and fatigued the next day. While the results may have supported this conclusion, there was no way to account for the fact that muscle soreness is subjective and, to some degree, based on the individual – what makes one person “sore” may not make the next person sore, even if they’re in similar shape. Additionally, the value of the cool down is about more than simply avoiding sore muscles. Your cool down is the start of your recovery time. Your recovery time is where your body makes all those wonderful adaptions you want – Stronger. Better. Faster. Tougher. With this in mind, skipping your cool down could mean the difference between you from getting all the benefits you deserve from the valuable time you just spent training – and who doesn’t want to maximize their benefits?
Your cool down should enhance and harmonize with whatever activity you were doing. For instance, if you just ended a restorative yoga session, it wouldn’t make much sense to jump on the treadmill and then do some light mobility/flexibility moves to finish but this could be the perfect conclusion to your strength training sesh. Conversely, simply lying on your mat in savasana might an amazing finish after your time on the yoga mat, but if you just finished that hard run or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session, immediately lying on the ground with your heart racing is not the healthiest way to end – even though, yep, it does feel like you want to do just that!
Cooling down just feels good. After that hard run or HIIT session, for instance, it probably feels better to keep moving gently because the movement (muscle action) actually helps your heart to pump and circulate your blood. The slow movement also gradually brings your body back to its resting state and reduces the risk of dizziness and fainting due to blood pooling in your lower extremities. For people with cardiovascular issues, this is particularly important. Note: the cool down is generally not the time to do your big flexibility training sessions. Remember, the goal of the cool down is to return your body to its pre-exercise resting state. Holding stretches that feel good because your body is tight or out of alignment may be fine but generally, flexibility training is best done on its own, on recovery days, for instance, or some separate time after your higher workload training session is over.
The cool down is also a great time to take a moment to reflect on your performance – what you did, what you need to work on and what you need to do next time. Think of it as closure. Your cool down is like putting a period (or an exclamation point!) on what you just did. It’s also a good time to work on your mindset and to focus on succeeding with your goals. You just added another training day to the bottom line and you did something really good to care for your body, after all! You’re closer to your goals than you were before, so the cool down offers a moment to congratulate yourself on that day’s success.
- Warm up every. single. time. Base your warm up on what you’re getting ready to do. Focus on mobilizing your joints, warming up your muscles, gently increasing your range of motion and getting mentally prepared for what you’re about to do. Generally, “a little sweaty is ready”, as in ready to move into the main part of the training workout – aka “the real stuff”. Need a warm up idea? Our WFF Mobility Drill is a great addition to your warm up playlist.
- Cool down as appropriate for the activity you just did. Do what feels good. Take a moment to reflect on what you did AND to congratulate yourself for getting the training session done – add the exclamation point!
Hey, are you on track with your goal to get moving and create new healthy lifestyle habits in 2018?
Contact us today to get started on designing your own personalized training and lifestyle coaching plan so you can get going and practice the habits that will help you to succeed this year!
In the meantime, here are some tools to help you get focused this year:
Read this: MAKE 2018 GOALS, NOT RESOLUTIONS
And this – Training workouts [FREE DOWNLOAD]: TOTAL BODY HIIT TRAINERS FOR WOMEN