Warming Up and Cooling Down Are Crucial
When you’re ready to get rolling with your workout, warming up and cooling down can seem like filler that just wastes your time.
This couldn’t be any farther from the truth.
In fact, taking the time to do a proper warm-up and cool down should be part and parcel for any workout. No matter what that workout is.
How Warming Up Helps Your Whole Body
You’ll have a more successful workout if you give the heart, lungs, and muscles some prep time. Warming up does just that.
When you warm up, your blood temperature rises. When this happens, there’s less binding of oxygen to hemoglobin – thus freeing it up for working the muscles.
In addition to raising blood temperature, your muscle temperature also increases. The warmer the muscles are, the more easily and quickly they contract and relax – thereby lessening the risk of overstretching and injury.
A warm-up will boost your body temperature too. (Seeing a pattern here?) This improves your muscle elasticity and increases the range of motion in your joints.
Other benefits of warming up include increased blood flow to the heart, balancing of hormones to utilize carbs and fatty acid for energy, and sheer mental preparation. This last point should not be underestimated.
Giving yourself the opportunity to clear your mind and increase focus during a warm-up can have a profoundly positive impact on your workout.
What Should a Warm-Up Entail?
First, your warm-up need only be five to ten minutes. Five minutes for a less intense workout, ten for one that’s more challenging.
There is no prescribed movement for a warm-up. In general, whatever activity you plan to do for your workout, just do so at a slower pace for your warm-up.
For example, if you’re planning a vigorous walk, start with a more relaxed walk. By the same token, if you’re preparing for a run, give yourself ten minutes of jogging first. Whatever the activity, your warm-up is a chance to gradually increase the intensity.
In cases where there isn’t a lot of aerobic activity planned such as with Pilates or yoga, start with small movements like neck rolls or pelvic tilts to awaken the joints and prepare them for larger more demanding movements. And if it’s a weightlifting workout for which you’re preparing, focus on range of motion exercises such as knee lifts or shoulder rolls.
What About Stretching?
Stretching is certainly valuable while warming up as long as it’s dynamic stretching. This means that you’re continuously moving through a range of motion.
You may start by making big arm circles in each direction, stretching arms to the sky then leaning down to touch your toes, or kicking your legs forward.
During your warm-up, you should avoid static stretches where you stay in one position for any length of time. Subjecting a cold muscle to this sort of stretch could cause a pull or tear. That’s why static stretching is reserved for your cool down.
Speaking of cooling down…
Once you’ve completed your workout, you may be eager to plunk down in a chair to drink some water or immediately hit the showers. But cooling down slowly is just as important as warming up slowly.
Similar to warming up, your cool down doesn’t need to be lengthy. In some cases, it could be a short as three or four minutes.
The overarching point of a cool down is to get the body slowly back to its normal or resting state. Cooling down is an opportunity to regulate your heart rate. Otherwise, if you stop too quickly, your blood pressure drops quickly and you could become dizzy or even faint.
You also want to increase the range of motion in your joints while reducing the build-up of lactic acid in your muscles so that you don’t experience cramping and stiffness. Some slow and gentle movements along with static stretching will help with this.
In addition, during a long hold stretch, your brain which was producing endorphins throughout your workout now shifts to dopamine and serotonin production. Your breathing slows, tension is released, and you feel relaxed and ready to face your day.
Embrace Warming Up and Cooling Down!
As you can see, the time you spend warming up and cooling down is more than a worthwhile investment. It’s a necessity. So make each of them an integral part of your workout.
And if you’re interested in exploring the benefits of practicing Pilates, GYROTONIC® or GYROKINESIS® in a studio that puts a premium on proper method and movement, contact us today!
We look forward to meeting you.