Seriously, I cannot tell you how many times I overlooked this as a novice runner (suffered and learnt the hard way!). Nowadays, I come across numerous people who suffered the same common injuries because they just don’t pay attention to this, either!
Firstly, if you’re skipping your warm-up or cool-down because you don’t have time to work out, DO NOT WORK OUT. At all. I mean it.
Why Warm Up?
Warming up stimulates your body’s cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems from steady state to prepare for exercise. A 2012 study found that runners who did a higher-intensity warm-up before a workout ended up performing better than those who hadn’t warmed up as well. Also, another study published in 2007 discovered that warm-up done prior is most effective at reducing post-work soreness.
Your Ideal Warm Up Routine Should
Be 8 to 15 minutes of dynamic movements that help you break into a light sweat.
Raise your heart rate and body temperature—this will pump more oxygen into your body, warm up your muscles and make them ready for your workout. Try jogging on the spot for 1 minute, doing jumping jacks, jumping hops, etc.
Feature movements geared towards your fitness routine or sport. A range of lower intensity movements will help activate your muscles and joints appropriately. Your brain and central nervous system need to be alerted about a specific range of motions to ensure optimal performance benefit.
For Example: Runners should activate their hip flexors, hamstrings, quads and core muscles. The exercises include jump rope, jumping jacks, lunges, quick steps, butt kicks, agility drills etc.
Similarly, someone preparing for a strength workout should look at loosening large muscle groups and targeting joints. Their exercises can include jumping jacks, windmills, squats, push-ups, inch worms, etc.
Remember, static stretching is not recommended here. It can overextend cold muscles and may rob them of their optimal strength and can cause tears.
Why Cool Down?
A lot of us may still do some form of warm-up prior to our workout. But it’s very easy to skip the cool-down because we’re either running late or are too tired. During a workout, no matter at what level—professional, amateur or novice—the body's muscles, tendons and ligaments undergo several levels of stress. So, don’t skip the all-important cool down routine.
It’s Highly Effective In:
Lowering the body’s heart rate, temperature and breathing back to normal.
Enabling the muscles in your body to go back to their optimal structure.
Avoiding any blood pooling into your lower body, that can cause dizziness.
Initiating the body’s repair process by loading oxygen and key nutrients into the blood circulation.
Most importantly, you will benefit by reduced injury risk and enhanced performance and vitality.
Your Ideal Cool-Down Routine Should
Be five to ten minutes of light exercises targeted to bring the heart rate down to resting levels.
Include easy functional movements, static stretching and muscle releases
Static stretches help lengthen your muscles post-workout and increase flexibility. Exercises can include neck and shoulder stretches, reverse pigeon, calf stretches, cobra, butterfly, figure 4, downward dog, cat-camel, etc.
Pro Tip: Invest in a foam-roller for muscle releases with special focus on quads, hip flexors, calves, back, traps and lats.
About The Author: Nivedita Samanta is a NAASFP Certified Running Coach, Brand Ambassador and athlete for Adidas Running and Unived Sports in India and founder of FitRabbits. All the information in this article is explained in great detail on the FITRABBITS YouTube channel and on her Instagram profile.
Featured Image Credits: ROMP Pictures