08 Dec Warm up, stay focused, cool down
Warming up, staying focused and cooling down set the stage for a safe and injury-free work out.
A warm up is actually how the word reads: you gradually warm up your muscles and body temperature. It’s like pre-heating an oven before cooking! You have to do it or the food won’t cook right (you may suffer an injury).
To warm up, you want to target the major muscle groups you will be using in your activity for about 5-10 minutes before moving onto your work out. For example, if you are going to be running or playing a sport, you can start with a brisk walk and then maybe move onto a light jog. You can then move side to side, skip, circle your arms in the air (forwards and then back), rotate your neck, cut back and forth, perform some leg kicks, jog so your heals touch your butt….
Whatever you do, you want to begin with a smaller range of motion and then increase it. Warming up your muscles increases their flexibility, leaving you less likely to pull a muscle while you perform the main part of your exercise.
During your exercise, whatever it may be, you will want to stay focused on your activity to keep you safe and to reap (get) the most out of your hard work. Distractions can cause us to lose focus and sacrifice form, which compromises our safety. For example, often people who weight train will simply “go through the motions” of their workout. They have done the work out so many times, they sort of go on automatic pilot as they do their bicep curls and squats. But this is when bad habits that cause injury can happen. People often forget that form is critical in maintaining bone and joint health. Keep focused on your work out to keep safe. And if you are just beginning, seek someone who can teach you the proper form.
After a workout, your body is all revved up! Blood is flowing fast, your heart rate is up, you are sweating and tired. But you don’t want to go from intense workout mode to sitting. It’s like in a car; you can’t go from 100mph to 0 without passing 99, 98, 97… A cool down is like your warm up in reverse. Keep moving around at a pace that slowly brings your heart rate down. Then, when your breathing begins to return to normal you will want to stretch.
Stretching is the process of trying to lengthen muscles and soft tissues to increase flexibility. Some people are born highly flexible, others have a more limited range. What is important is to be able to have functional flexibility – to be flexible enough to perform the activities you do regularly without injuring yourself. Being highly flexible is less important than being flexible enough to do what you need to do (like bend down and tie your shoes!).
Some exercises focus solely on stretching and strengthening, like yoga and Pilates. If you enjoy these forms of exercise, great! Just remember to incorporate (include) some aerobic forms of exercise as well. See the sub-post on Tips To Training.
Cooling down reduces muscle soreness and stiffness. A good cool down is about 10 minutes in length. Unfortunately, it is often the part of the workout people skip when they are pressed for time but this is short-sighted. A cool down not only helps to prevent muscle soreness the next day, it helps to keep you flexible, preventing injury every day. Don’t skip it… or the next post.