Yesterday I wrote a friendly reminder about the importance of including a warm up and cool down any time you exercise. Today I am going to go into more detail about what to include in these crucial pre and post workout times.
Warm It Up
In general the best way to warm up is to do workout specific movements. For running this means starting by walking and then progressing to a slow jog. For biking this means starting more slowly on your bike. Elliptical/stair-stepper warm ups should start on a low incline and resistance.
You get the picture, to warm up for cardio you do the activity for which you are warming up but at a slower, easier, gentler pace.
But what about strength training or a full body tabata or interval style workout? You can actually do the same thing here; do similar exercises to what will be included in your workout but at a much lower intensity. Do not include jumping or held stretches in the first five minutes of your warm up. Do include often neglected areas of the body like the shoulders and spine. I love to include a few big arm circles and some chest opening movements to wake up my shoulders and upper torso. A great full body warm up exercise is to shift between Downward Dog and Plank position for several repetitions. These movements open up the shoulders, upper back, and back of the legs, starts building heat in the core, legs, and arms, and gives you a moment to really tune into correct form and alignment through the whole body.
Just as you don’t want to jump right into your workout you also don’t want to jump into your warm up. Instead, wade into your warm up. Start with less intense movements that require a smaller range of motion and progressive become more full bodied and active until you can seamlessly transition into your workout.
Note: Stretch is not a warm up! Stretching can be an element of your warm up but stretching alone, whether it’s dynamic or static, does not warm up the muscles or increase the heart rate adequately to prepare you for exercise.
Just Cool It
Sound familiar? Yep, the first step in cooling down is to keep your body moving in a similar way to the exercise you just completed. I usually walk a block or two at the end of my runs then keep moving around the house for a few minutes (putting away my iPod, taking off my shoes, getting water) until my heart rate has dropped down to near normal.
Your cool down starts as soon as you finish your workout and thus you need to bring your body from an active state back down to a rest state. It’s important to make this transition gradually to avoid a sudden change in blood pressure and blood pooling.
Now’s the time to stretch out all those worked muscles. While exercise generally warms up and loosens up muscles it can also cause muscular tightness that, if not regularly stretched out, can lead to poor posture, pain, and/or injury.
Stretch each muscle group and pay special attention to areas of tightness or injury. Stretching takes time, it’s best to stay in cool down stretches for at least 30 seconds. Do you get bored stretching? Sometimes I like to use my post-run stretch as a time to flip through a magazine or listen to some music.
Post exercise stretching has been on my mind recently because this weekend I am going to be leading sessions on exactly that; post running race and post biking race stretching. The events are part of a weekend music festival taking place outside of Cville, The Festy Experience. I will be camping Saturday night and spending two days listening to music, attending workshops, leading stretching sessions, and being outdoors-so excited!
My stretch sessions are going to focus on Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF). Usually this type of stretching is done with a trainer or health care provider but there are a few great stretches that you can do on your own. Have you ever done PNF stretches?
Have a great weekend!