Warming up and cooling down is an essential part of any workout routine, but what's the best way to do it? This blog will tell you!
November 17, 2021
You probably know that warming up and stretching is an integral part of any workout, but do you know how and why to get the most out of your warmup and cool down? This blog will help you understand the nuts and bolts of taking care of your muscles so you can keep performing at your best.
WHY WARM UP AND COOL DOWN?
When you perform cardio workouts like running, biking, or stair climbing, you’re usually doing hundreds or even thousands of short repetitive movements. If your body isn’t moving properly during these movements, even small imperfections in your movement pattern can lead to serious injury down the road. If you have a tight hamstring, for example, your leg might not be able to extend properly when you run. Over time, this will lead to muscle imbalances as the other muscles in your legs move differently to compensate for your tight hamstring. By warming up with dynamic movements before your workout, you can check in with your body and identify any tightness or soreness. Paying special attention to these tight or sore areas will help ensure that you start your workout as balanced as possible. After your workout, static stretches help your muscles return to their proper length. By stretching out your freshly worked-out muscles, you’ll prevent muscles from shortening as they heal. This means that your body will continue moving properly every step until your next workout.
DYNAMIC STRETCHES TO WARM UP
As opposed to static stretches, which means a stretch that you hold for an extended period of time, dynamic stretches are movements designed to get your body ready for a workout. Though some programs recommend static stretches at the start of a workout, these are more effective afterwards when your muscles are already warm. Here’s a quick and easy set of dynamic stretches that will get your body ready for running, biking, hiking, or whatever else may come your way. The squats and lunges will get your muscle groups moving and ready for the workout, and the high knees will start to raise your heart rate so your cardiovascular system is ready to go.
CIRCUIT, 2-5 ROUNDS 10 squats 10 lunges (left leg forward) 10 lunges (right leg forward) 10 side lunges (to the left) 10 side lunges (to the right) 10 high knees (each leg)
Start with slow, shallow movements, and make your squats and lunges deeper with your high knees faster each round as your muscles warm up. Repeat the circuit for 2 to 5 rounds, or until you are feeling limbered up.
STATIC STRETCHES TO COOL DOWN
After your workout, your muscles will be warm and pliable. This is the perfect time for static stretching as you cool down. Static stretches will help your muscles return to a proper length, making sure they don’t over-contract as they heal from your workout. When you start each stretch, you will feel your muscles contract for about 20 seconds. Hold each stretch until the urge to contract the muscle stops and you feel your muscle relax into the stretch. Do NOT bounce or try to force the stretch to the point of causing you pain. It may be a little uncomfortable at first, but if it’s actively hurting then dial back your stretch. Throughout your cool down, make sure you’re breathing slowly and deeply into the bottom of your stomach.
CIRCUIT, 1-3 ROUNDS, HOLD EACH STRETCH AT LEAST 30 SECONDS
Hamstring Stretch — sit on the floor with both legs straight, extend your arms forward and bend forward as far as possible without bending your knees.
Standing Quad Stretch — stand on one foot, holding the other ankle with that side’s hand behind you (left ankle in left hand, right ankle in right hand). Pull your ankle as close to your body as possible, keeping your hips pushed forward and your chest and shoulders upright. Repeat for the other leg.
Glute and Lower Back Stretch — lie on your back with both legs extended. Draw up one knee to your chest and hug the knee to your body as tightly as possible while keeping your hips pressed evenly into the ground. Repeat for the other knee.
Calf Stretch — stand with one leg 1-2 feet in front of the other. Lunge forward slowly, bending your front knee while keeping your back leg straight with the heel on the ground, until you feel a stretch in your calf. Repeat for the other leg.
You can cycle through this routine as many times as you like during your cool down, but 1-3 cycles is enough to get your muscles lengthened and ready to recover. Just like with the dynamic stretches, start with shallow stretches and you will find that you are able to stretch just a little deeper each cycle.